Making the most of Screen Time: Recommendations for Digital Picture Books

The Yellin Center’s latest newsletter is out, and with it my article on digital picture books. The reading experience is changing, and it is rather exciting; this is especially true for struggling learners. Happy Reading!

Best Digital Picture Books

By Renée Jordan

These aren’t your ordinary picture books. Today’s digital-native children are engaging with reading in a novel way, as their fingers swipe tablet screens to reach the next page. Digitized stories come alive with graphic design and moving imagery. Many of today’s digital story books have built-in audio features, where the story is read aloud to children, granting them autonomy in the early reading process. But there is more, now that the reading process is augmented with sounds effects, pop-ups, music, puzzles, and matching games. These engrossing add-ons draw the reader deeper into the story, resulting in enhanced comprehension of the plot line. We’ve chronicled some of the richest digital story books available for today’s 21st-century readers.


Picture ​OceanHouse Media has made available over 50 Dr. Seuss titles, including classics like the How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Hop on Pop. They also have digitized classics series’ such as the Little Critter Books and The Bernstein Bears. These technological variations allow children to explore pictures, learn new vocabulary, and personalize each story with their own narration.

The newest development by OceanHouse is their Read&Learn versions of some tales such as The Cat in the HatIn these renditions of the text there are a variety of learning actives embedded into each tale. For example, “sound starters” emphasize first letters in words, “rhyme time” allows students to rhyme words by sound, “super speller” helps build word formation skills, and “what’s what” helps students grasp story content in a more meaningful manner.

Fairy tales are also being retold and restructured in the digital space by StarTale. By creating multi-sensory picture books, StarTale aims to provide children a way to “read and hear words, appreciate artwork, touch pages, learn languages and experience the world. Nosy Crow also revisited classic tales like Jack and the Bean StalkCinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White, as did Timbuktu Labs with their animated storybook adventures of The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, and The Tallow Candle. Each tale by Timbuktu Labs includes original illustrations and full orchestral excerpts from the theatrical renderings of each tale.


Picture Although many companies are digitizing tried and true narratives, many authors are starting out in the digital arena. Digital book publishers like Digital Leaf are striving to create digital stories with the intention to “light up children’s lives, [and] stimulate them to laugh, to think and to grow.” Wee Society has begun creating beautiful, minimal story books to teach students about diversity as well as the alphabetPolk Street Press is also developing story time apps, including one of my all-time favorite digital titles, Splatter & Spark.

The advent of digital reading content has also afforded authors the ability to self-publish their content.  ​For example, author Mariya Stavinskaya, created her first beautifully illustrated digital picture book that is sure to captivate young audiences. In similar fashion, author Alexey Politov created and published Dragon and Wolf. So, although I don’t foresee paper books being rendered obsolete, 21st-century publishing and reading is changing rapidly. Although digital books may not be the best choice for bedtime, when it comes to cultivating the love of reading in young children, digital story books are a great addition to any school or home library. ​


Renée Jordan, M.A.   is a Learning Specialist at The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and her master’s degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Before joining The Yellin Center, Renée was an elementary and middle school teacher in British Columbia.

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