Make Way for Books

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Make Way for Books App Poster Image
Resource library empowers parents to support early literacy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

There's great learning potential here, though it mostly depends on how parents use the suggestions. Building a literacy-rich environment through books, discussion, stimulating activities, and more can make an enormous difference for kids' development.

Ease of Play

Lots of different pieces to navigate through, but how-to videos showcase how everything works. It's possible to get lost in all of the linked material.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Make Way for Books is a digital library and resource to help parents discover new ways to interact with their young kids. The app is an initiative from a nonprofit group of the same name that promotes early literacy. The developers stress that though they include content for infants, the app is meant for parents to use together with their kids, regardless of age. Videos and activity instructions suggest simple games, crafts, rhymes, songs, and more for parents and kids to do together. Original digital books are included for free directly in the app. A separate section features suggested print books to find at your local library. Both types of books include suggestions for discussion and activities for parents to do with their kids. If parents sign in with an email address or Facebook or Google account, they can save favorite books and activities to access across multiple devices. Most content is available in English and Spanish. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

Parents start by choosing to use MAKE WAY FOR BOOKS in English, Spanish, or both. They can then tap through a brief tutorial to learn how the app works, or skip it and jump right in. Content is organized by age range: infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Parents browse "read now" books, which are digital books available to read directly in the app. There are also "print" books, which are traditional published books to find in a bookstore or library. And then there are activity and discussion suggestions. Every book also has its own ideas for discussion and notes on encouraging healthy early development. Videos demonstrate fun ways to engage with your kids. Mark favorites to find them easily in your personal profile.

Is it any good?

Parents looking for some support in creating meaningful interaction with their little ones will find lots of great resources here. Videos and short blurbs cover lots of ground in helping parents, like how to "read" to a small baby and how to create opportunities for "serve and return" interactions. It's important to note that although Make Way for Books does include content clearly directed at babies, the developers state in multiple ways that the app isn't meant to be handed over to kids to use on their own. Rather, it aims to be a tool that encourages parents to engage with their kids and helps them create rich interactions. To that end, parents may actually want to look at this app when they're not with their kids.

The digital books aren't all sophisticated, but they do have lots of great ideas for talking -- and if they get parents and kids to have a special back-and-forth discussion, that's really the most important thing here. Print book suggestions point parents to top-notch kids' books, but require them to get out and actually find the books. At the time of this review, only a few library systems were currently participating in the "available nearby" feature, though when that's expanded, it could be a great help. Overall organization could be a bit clearer, as it's easy to get lost tapping through all the linked material. Parents who have experience around finding books and discussing them with their kids may find a lot of the advice a bit basic, and the library isn't super extensive. But in general, Make Way for Books features really wonderful encouragement and modeling for parents.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the books they read together with Make Way for Books. What stories interest you the most? Why?

  • Let the suggestions be your guide in finding ways to create meaningful interactions with your kids. But don't stop with what's in the app! Keep discussions going and get creative for finding more fun activities to do together.

  • Create a language-rich environment for your kids. Read books, poems, nursery rhymes, and songs as often as you can. Look for cultural, linguistic, and artistic diversity. The more variety, the more they'll learn!

App details

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For kids who love reading apps and co-use apps

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