Recently we’ve been delving into the process of App Production. The other day we heard from Susan Hood, our Story Editor, about the editorial process and she told us how she works with authors, producers, art department and curriculum developers to cook up a great digital storybook. We enjoyed the post so much that we thought we’d go back to Susan to hear more about her role here at Ruckus and her thoughts about the future of digital storytelling, what makes a good app, what role education has in what we do and more. Here’s what Susan had to say:
Tell us about your role at Ruckus Media Group.
I’m the story editor and curriculum advisor at Ruckus. I work with our authors, producers, art department and curriculum developers.
As an author, how do you feel about the future of reading given the fact that digital storybooks are becoming so popular?
It’s an exciting time. Digital books complement bound books and the best ones can draw in a new audience. One of our authors was telling me that his son was a reluctant reader. Then one day, he realized that he could enlarge the font on an ebook. For him, suddenly, reading wasn’t so daunting! This is one small way digital books can help kids who are struggling. I strongly believe that digital books won’t completely replace traditional children’s books; it’s not an either/or proposition. But together, they can only make reading more popular.
What do you recommend to a parent who is reluctant to get their kids involved with storybook apps?
I’d say, just try them. You’ll like them! And so will your kids. Read the reviews and, just as you look for quality children’s books, look for quality storybook apps. Look for ones that use animation, activities and games to further the story, rather than ones that have games tacked on at the end. Continue to read traditional books with your child and your child will get the message: reading is important and enjoyable no matter what form it takes!
How important is the emphasis on education in digital storytelling?
I think the emphasis should be on creating great stories that take advantage of the medium. Good stories motivate a kid to learn to read. An educational curriculum built into the stories can only make them stronger, but it should be organic and invisible.
What makes a storybook a good one?
A good storybook is age-appropriate, uses interesting language, engages a child’s senses and emotions, invites participation, and is enjoyable for parent and child alike. For very young children, great stories use bright colors, simple, fun-to-say words and lots of repetition. As kids get older, good stories have stronger plots (with a clear beginning, middle and end), richer vocabulary, and more complex art. Grade school kids enjoy branching out, reading different genres, such as information books, folktales, mysteries and so on.
What makes an app a good one? Why do you think apps are so popular?
A lot of the requirements for a good story apply to apps as well. A good digital storybook should take all the ingredients that go into a good book and then add the icing on the cake—high-quality music, narration, animation, video and interactivity. I think apps are so popular because they are so portable and interactive. Kids who can’t read can listen to a story anywhere–in the car, in a tree house, wherever. And they put the child in the driver’s seat. Kids can move through the story at their own pace. If they don’t recognize a word, they can tap it and hear it repeated as often as they like.
What do you think is the future for digital storytelling?
The future looks bright as award-winning authors and illustrators enter the field and the games and activities become more and more innovative. The downside is that the field is becoming more crowded and there are a lot of subpar apps being released. The question is how will parents and kids find the really good digital storybooks? That’s the challenge ahead!
Susan Hood was mostly recently the Children’s Content Director of Nick Jr. Magazine, published by Nickelodeon, and has been an editor at Scholastic and Sesame Workshop. She is also a children’s book author, whose first picture books will be published this fall.