A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this app.
Kids can learn vocabulary, some reading comprehension skills, and elements of storytelling. Nonfiction titles offer some science and social studies concepts. Spanish titles provide opportunities for second language exposure or first language reinforcement. However, kids' reading skills may not get much of a boost as reading level is typically too high for the targeted ages and writing style is not exceptionally engaging. iStoryBooks offers kids free access to colorful books but would benefit from higher quality literature and a better user interface.
Ease of Play
Kids on Android devices have to use the device's back button to navigation from titles back to myLibrary (main menu); on iOS devices they tap the screen and use the "Library" arrow. Kids swipe to move from page to page; there are no icons. There's no pause or repeat button, and no way to navigate to specific pages except for swiping through to them.
Products & Purchases
The app comes with 25 free titles. Users can subscribe to get access to more books; a subscription is $.99/month. At the time of this review, the subscription process was not functioning on iOS devices, but worked fine for apps installed via Google Play or the Amazon Appstore.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know iStoryBooks offers up a collection of standard educational book fare in full page, read-to-me format for preschool and elementary ages. Download time can be lengthy and there are a few small bugs here and there. The in-app purchase of additional titles (a $.99/month subscription) is protected by a multidigit addition password to keep kids out, but some precocious first-graders could figure this out. During our review the option to purchase additional titles didn't work on iOS devices.
Is It Any Good?
While nothing can compare to cuddling up with your kid and reading quality books together, talking books like those found in iStoryBooks also have their place in a child's reading world. An encouraging narrator reads nonfiction, biography, and folk tale adaptations -- some in Spanish -- such as "A to Z Fruits and Vegetable," "Three Little Pigs," "El Zorro Azul," a West African (Gambian) tale called "The Fish Snatcher," and "The Amazing Life of Helen Keller." Modern photos for "Sea Animals" and "Things That Go" fill the screen with crisp colors, and cartoon quality is comparatively good.
On the downside, reading level varies and is usually too high for kids to read themselves. While some titles have only one or two sentences per page, others have five. There is no option for words to be highlighted, and there is no pause button, which would really be nice, especially since mode changes and library deletions can only be made within titles. The occasional misspellings and editing errors will make many parents cringe. While the price is right for this free app, some parents will be left hungering for higher quality literature and cutting-edge art.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.