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Children’s e-book reading is still in very early stages — but with parents increasingly handing iPads down to their kids, publishers see room for fast growth. Scholastic launched a children’s e-reading app, Storia, last month. Launching today is Ruckus Media Group’s new iPad app, Ruckus Reader. It offers books for 3- to 8-year-olds from brands like My Little Pony, Curious George and the Transformers, and reports back to parents on their kids’ reading skills.
Ruckus Reader titles can be downloaded individually, or parents can buy access to the whole library for $24.99 for six months. The first title in a series is free; after that, titles are $3.99 each or 2 for $5.99. For now, Ruckus Reader offers 25 titles — a mixture of interactive “iReaders” (enhanced e-books with video and games), straight e-books and “vidReaders” (video books narrated by celebrities like Meryl Streep and Robin Williams). Ruckus CEO Rick Richter, formerly president of the children’s division at Simon & Schuster, told me the company expects to include around 500 titles by the end of the year.
In addition to the brand-related content it developed itself, Ruckus is partnering with other book publishers to deliver e-books as well. The first partnership is with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is providing Curious George titles. Richter said other “major publishers” are “lined up.”
How do your kid’s reading skills stack up?
“Right now, 1 in 4 kids has access to an iPad,” Richter said. “In 70 percent of households where an iPad is resident, the child has access. In 40 percent of households, kids use the iPad every day. It’s a family device.”
Ruckus Reader tracks kids’ in-app reading skills — the apps support up to 4 accounts, so parents can track more than one child on the same title — and reports back to parents with a weekly “Reader Meter” e-mail that ranks children’s mastery of “phonics and word recognition, print awareness, fluency, alphabetic knowledge, sequencing and story comprehension in real time.” The rankings are weighed against the national Common Core State Standards. “We are trying to make sense of all the options available to children in a digital age and strive to understand when screen time is delivering real educational value,” Richter said in a statement.
Through a partnership with School Library Journal, each parent e-mail includes a list of recommended print books for their child’s reading level.