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Children’s Books: Innovative Companies That Encourage Literacy

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Mom looking at kids in back seat listening to book on media As a children’s picture book author, one of my favorite moments while reading my story to groups of children, is to see their faces light up during an exciting part of the story. I think all parents experience that feeling when they see their children enjoy a good story. Recent studies show that reading to a child up to age 5 is a positive predictor for literacy in later years (Source: National Early Literacy Report).

In May 1997, a small reading task force at The National Education Association (NEA) wanted to get kids excited about reading. Thus, NEA’s Read Across America was born and celebrated on March 2, 1998, Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Now we see everyone from schools to libraries to community centers host events to celebrate and promote children’s reading. In honor of this wonderful motivational and awareness program, I want to introduce some innovative companies who are providing interesting ways to keep the love of reading and storytelling alive!

Companies That are Keeping the Love of Reading Alive

Be There Bedtime Stories

One of my favorite companies is based in Orange County, California. Alison Sansone, creator of Be There Bedtime Stories, started her company because her niece lived across the country and she wanted to experience the joy of reading her bedtime stories. Be There Bedtime Stories is a website that places webcam recorded video of a storyteller onto the page of a children’s book, which can be watched on a home computer anytime. This is a wonderful option for military families and grandparents who might live across the country, or can be enjoyed by families who want to video themselves reading a story that can be treasured for years to come. Learn more at: www.betherebedtimestories.com.

Tales2Go

Another company I love because they offer so many great book choices is Tales2Go. Tracey and William Weil, a husband and wife team, started this company because they wanted to offer audio books for children while on the go or at home. As they state on their website: “Tales2Go is all about entertaining your kids with great stories that will make them giggle, laugh, think and ask questions.” Audio books are an important tool in developing reading skills. A 2007 article from the ALSC Research and Development Committee says that young readers are significantly above their reading levels, so audio books can be a bridge for children to enjoy literature that they are ready for intellectually but not yet able to read independently (Source: Article by Liz Noland at: www.audiofilemagazine.com). They have a selection of over 1,500 stories to choose from and have won numerous awards, including the Parents Choice Award. Check out their story selections at: www.tales2go.com.

PicPocket Books

PicPocket Books has a vast selection of storybook apps ranging from traditional stories to new authors and was started by Lynette Mattke. Ms. Mattke says she: “Wanted to offer parents and children options for bringing story time to their mobile devices with an experience that would be quite close to reading a traditional book, but with the convenience of a digital library.” Parents have told her that the stories have sparked conversations with their child – about jobs on the farm, or sibling relations, or local marine life. The highlighting feature that helps pre- and early readers is an educational tool that the parents really like as well. You can read more about PicPocket Books and see their wonderful selection of storybook apps at: www.picpocketbooks.com.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children states that literacy doesn’t begin at kindergarten – or even in preschool. Babies respond to adults talking to them; 1-year-olds point to pictures in books; and 2-year olds chant nursery rhymes. These innovative companies are helping us parents encourage the love of stories and reading! I think Be There Bedtime Stories Ms. Sansone states it best: “Help a child develop reading skills by activating their gray matter!”

What products do you use to help your child fall in love with reading and storytelling? What companies are helping parents encourage their kids to read?

Melissa Northway is a mom, writer of children’s picture books, and just came out with a new storybook app and book called Penelope the Purple Pirate.  Her tomboy was the inspiration to write about a girl who likes to have adventures with her friends, and at the same time teach little ones the importance of treating others with kindness and respect. Penelope the Purple Pirate was chosen as a Top 10 Must-Have eBook by lilsugar of Popsugar.com and as a Top 10 Educational iPad app by Digital Storytime.  Penelope is available at the iTunes app store and on Amazon. You can read more about Penelope and Melissa at: www.melissanorthway.com.

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Jen Tilley

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