Teaching and Learning with E-books!

Teaching and Learning with E-books!

by Des Hegarty

Put away your sandwich boards of doom foretelling the end of books as we know it. E-books and apps are just another way of celebrating words in a newer format. The learning is still there and the opportunities within a story can grow and provide a child with an in depth appreciation of the narrative. So don’t be so glum. Read on…

The way we read is changing. Technology is revolutionising how we access books. This has seen a shift in publishing too with the printed word making the transition to the touch screen. Parents and teachers will be thinking about how this affects their children.

But don’t panic! As adults it may take us a little longer to adapt to new technology but children just get stuck in – and they are particularly adept with gadgets. I am often given tips from my Year 1 class (age 5 and 6) which I graciously accept! Technology is assisting the culture of reading to blossom and is giving stories a whole new dimension. It is enhancing the narrative experience. In this article I’ll look at the merits of e-readers and apps to try and give a bit of peace of mind.

My Top 5 Reason to invest in E-readers

If you, as a parent or teacher are still unsure whether to invest in an e-reader then here are my top 5 reasons to buy:

  • E-books are virtually indestructible!   (The devices are of course less indestructible so don’t try and inventive ways to torture your Kindle! In fact my advice would be to buy a protective case to minimise the risk of damage.) Once an e-book is purchased they take an enormous amount of effort to delete. Children’s books can become quite dog-eared and battered in relatively no time at all. But thanks to back-ups of course the book will always appear pristine on your screen!
  • Most devices have an onboard dictionary! This is a great discovery option for children. They can instantly look up the definition to words they have just accessed and it encourages them to be independent to do this.
  • E-readers are portable! Wherever you go you can travel with your own personal library providing instant entertainment! One device can hold hundreds of books (think of the storage you’re saving!)
  • An e-book can be easily shared!There’s no need for children to fight over one book when it can be shared among multiple devices. So one copy of an e-book can be accessible simultaneously to lots of children on their own e-reader.
  • You can scribble down notes and ideas as you read! Most e-readers have the facility to write on the page which can be handy for referencing while doing schoolwork.

Let’s face it. E-readers are a much better investment than video games too! (I can tell that not all of you are convinced!) A lot of children have grown up with a handheld game console. Wouldn’t it be better to exchange them for a something that has its intention in learning instead?

Everybody’s App-y!

Let me talk about apps. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

E-books and apps give us another alternative to teach our children in inventive ways. The tactile discovery is temptingly addictive and provides a great ‘hook’ for young minds to extend their imaginations.

However, some apps can suffer from having too much interaction which distract children from the story. So the balance must be – as Baby Bear famously says – just right.

Take ‘Pip and Posy’ for example.  It’s beautifully illustrated by a master of storytelling Axel Scheffler (illustrator of ‘The Gruffalo’ of course) and takes full advantage of the touch screen to tell its story. It has some engaging features too such as a colouring book, matching pairs, spot the difference and jigsaw. One of the most fun is a ‘make a face’ option which includes camera feed to mimic expressions such as angry, happy, worried and surprised. All of these things help to embed the story in more inventive ways.

Schools have a huge opportunity to explore these apps in the classroom. More and more schools are equipping themselves with touchscreen devices and should also invest time in researching the best apps to accompany the learning.

One I would personally recommend is ‘The Three Little Pigs’ app (http://nosycrow.com/apps/the-three-little-pigs ). I won’t spoil it by giving you a review, only to say that it is marvellous and for primary age children it is a well worth investment.

Books vs E-books

In my most humble opinion, children’s apps can coexist with printed books rather than replace them outright. It’s providing another alternative to how to access texts.  And though the industry is growing it’s not set to take over quite yet. As long as we can provide children with great characters and brilliant stories and can generate some excitement in the way we promote them, then children will continue to learn and enjoy and enthuse into adulthood.

(Check out some apps over at The Oxford Reading Tree

http://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/teacher )


Since becoming a primary school teacher all sorts of weird and wonderful opportunities have come my way and they have manifested themselves through my writing. Teaching has given me a creative licence to invent my own stories and share them with an effervescent fan base. I contribute resources regularly to the Guardian Teacher Network and some have even highlighted in the paper itself.

I invite you to take a look and share some of the things I’ve been involved in and let me know what you think!


In order to allow my stories to reach as many as possible I adapted a couple into short films (- with the mega-talented Danny Searle). You can view them and have a good chuckle by clicking the links.

‘Gus Gus You are a Superstar’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePrPdDYaOQw tells the tale of a gorilla unlike any other who has a hidden singing talent and has a dream to become a West End star.(Gus is a supporter of the charity ‘Children with Cancer Uk’ and you can check them out here www.childrenwithcancer.org.uk/ )

‘The Grizzlegrog’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDkd6HG1chQ&feature=player_detailpage  stars a rather sneaky fox who decides to trick his other nocturnal friends with ghastly tales of the mysterious ‘Grizzlegrog’.

(You can also buy the e-book by clicking here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?type=eBooks&keyWords=The+Grizzlegrog&sitesearch=lulu.com&q=&x=0&y=0 )

Books and Inspiration

And if you fancy being inspired then let me direct to my friend Chris Ayers www.chrisayersdesign.com . He is a graphic artist in Los Angeles and he has created some of the most amazing animals I’ve ever seen. He is incredibly gifted and his talent goes beyond the limits of normal. He was very generous to Kerry (my wife) and I by allowing us to write some prose about him which he published in his book ‘My Daily Zoo’.This book is bound to get your children to sketch – it’s phenomenal (and our story’s not bad either). Order your copy and discover Chris here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Daily-Zoo-Drawing-Activity/dp/1933492635/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354489317&sr=8-1


This year saw the launch of STORYSPLAT – an online primary blog for stories, authors, books, mediaand SPLATS! Join me and subscribe as each week I post something silly to share. My exploits recently took me to the Children’s BAFTAs where the celebrity contingent all gave me story ideas to share in schools.

I’ll keep you updated with news as it happens and you can follow me on Twitter @TheGrizzlegrog.

But I’ll sign off with a Didi the Dodo comic strip from Mauritius Now. Enjoy!

Des Heggaty


Leave a Reply