A Primer on Interactive Books

By Betty Ray

Edutopia

Editor's Note: Today's guest blogger is Laura Fleming, school librarian at Cherry Hill School in River Edge, NJ. Laura blogs at EdTech Insight.


In my quest to find all interactive children's literature or take "static" literature and make it interactive, I have divided all of my findings into tiers which I will share with you in this post.

Tier One: Fully Interactive

These are the true interactive books which in and of themselves are interactive -- the technology is an essential part of telling the story. My favorite, if you have been following my blog, is the Skeleton Creek a mystery series by Patrick Carman. These books are formatted in a unique way, breaking the story up into two parts, with text from one main character in the book and videos from another on a special website. Readers access links and passwords throughout the book.

There are other Tier One books in publication. The first that comes to mind isCathy's Book described at a "multimedia mystery" and is written by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman. Woven throughout the story, there are telephone numbers readers can call and Web sites they can access that help to tell the story.

Loser Queen by Jodi Lynn Anderson is a book with an interesting concept. It is essentially the reverse of the previous books. On the Loser Queen website readers can view the first few chapters of Loser/Queen and vote on both how the story should continue and on cover art for the print edition of the book, which will be published in paperback and as an e-book on December 21, 2010.

Another Tier One Patrick Carman goodie is Trackers. The Trackers series is told through videos, text, and websites and is about of a group of friends who have cutting-edge technology and use their skills to discover truths and bring them to light.

Tier Two: Partially Interactive

Tier Two books are those that have fabulous companion Web sites that enrich the experience the book in a way that makes reading it interactive. The technology is an optional part of telling the story and simply enhances it. Although there are many more books that could fall into Tier Two than Tier One, it still surprises me how many books do not have companion Websites or lack a quality Web site. However, a wonderful example of a Tier Two book isSpaceheadz- the first book in a new series by Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita.

Another example of a Tier Two book is The Fairy Godmother Academy by Jan Bozarth. This book has an amazing Web site that allows girls to enter the world they visit in the books. Patrick Carman's The Amanda Project written by Amanda Valentino and Melissa Kantor has an interactive Web site that connects readers through social media.

Tier Three: No Technology Component

Tier Three books have no interactivity and no technology to supplement telling the story. As an educator, it is important to remember that with the vast array resources available online today, it is possible to make any story interactive. One of my favorite books from this past school year to do this with was Weslandia by Paul Fleischman.

 

A New Tier Is Emerging: Mobile

Due to iPads, the iPod Touch and iPhones, many books now have companion apps. An exciting app to be released shortly is a part of the U-Ventures series published by Simon and Schuster. We all remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from our childhood in which readers had to turn to a page in the book to make a choice. The U-Ventures series is a 21st century version of these books in which the story is told from the point of view of the reader and by the touch of a screen the reader has complete control over the direction of the story. With the addition of voices, sounds and light- this is sure to be cutting edge interactive literature at its best.

The key to a successful book in this genre is a strong story. In my interactive literature experiment from last school year, the children saw right through poor literature and even the interactive piece was not able to catch them. I am eager to see what other things are on the horizon the the world of interactive literature. It is my hope that very soon there will be too many in publication for me to even be able to discuss!

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