Today’s news about the growing popularity of video games for kids confirmed what we suspected has been happening.
The number of 2-17 year olds using video games has grown nearly 13% since 2009, according to “Kids and Gaming 2011”, the latest report from leading market research company, The NPD Group.
“Today, 91 percent of kids (approximately 64 million) ages 2-17 are gaming in the U.S., an increase of 9 points when compared to 2009. While the percentage of kids gaming has grown significantly across all age groups, the fastest growth has been among kids ages 2-5, with an increase of 17 points in gaming incidence when compared to 2009.”
Indeed, it’s clear that smartphones and tablets are competing with books for children’s attention. So as children spend more time in front of screens, we want them to find great stories there too. At Nosy Crow, we are using technology as a tool to engage children with reading and to spark their imagination. As children’s publishers, we have to take this opportunity; otherwise others will fill the gap with either inferior book apps or simply with games.
In the past nine months we have published two storybook apps for the iPad and iPhone, The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella. These apps are carefully thought-through stories. But they are neither e-books nor games. Instead, they use the features of the device – the touchscreen, the microphone, the accelerometer, and the camera – to give children an active role in advancing the story.
Readers’ responses to our apps have been enthusiastic. We know from blogs, emails and customer reviews that parents and teachers are excited about what we’re creating and see our apps as positive screen experiences. Primary school teachers say they use our apps to support reading comprehension, and to teach sequencing events in a story and parts of speech. Teachers of children with special needs tell us of new possibilities for learning and communication through our apps.
One London mother filmed her 4-year-old son reciting the story in The Three Little Pigs and inventing his own dialogue for the wolf. A parent in New York sent us a video of her 6-year-old showing off a picture book he drew and wrote himself after using the app. One grandmother posted an image on her blog of the house her grandson built of blocks to keep the pigs safe from the wolf. That’s it, below.
When children respond to a storybook app in these creative ways, we sense we’re doing something right. Children are not using these apps to tune out and turn off as they might with a repetitive game. Rather, apps can help them to switch on to the imaginative possibilities of timeless stories.
So should we be worried about kids and gaming? We don’t think so. Games are here to stay. But it’s up to those of us who are devoted to education and reading, to take what is so engaging about games and integrate it into digital storytelling and educational activities.
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