Making a Connection With Interactive Children’s Books

Dawn Publications' The Mouse and the Meadow uses augmented reality to connect print and digital technology. (Author/Illustrator Chad Wallace and App Developer Malachi Bazan)

Press Here demonstrates print's unique interactive qualities.

Eric Huang, Development Director, Made in Me

The CARIBU app allows families to read together via a Skype-like video platform.

Publishers deploy low-tech and high-tech content to engage kids and get them invested in reading.

Though the very word “interactivity” conjures images of electronic gadgets, things to swipe, and other bells and whistles, it isn’t a new concept for children’s books. Publishers have been designing interactive content for quite a long time.

“There have been-literally, across centuries-any number of books that could be considered interactive,” says Christopher Franceschelli, president and publisher of Brooklyn-based Handprint Books. “There were books with pop-up elements dating back to the 16th Century, and an extensive pop-up industry in Germany in the 19th Century. There was a renaissance for those here in the States during the 1960s and 1970s. And we’ve had sticker books, books with die-cut elements, scratch-and-sniff books, and holographic inserts. If you can think of it, it already exists, so there has been a long tradition of interactive books, long before the first ebook was ever contemplated.”

Franceschelli also edited the English-language edition of The New York Times Bestseller Press Here — its print version a stellar example of low-tech interactive content. Young children interact with the pages by “pressing” colorful dots which transition spread by spread into other colorful graphics, as though their touch is creating an action.

Press Here has been a resounding success — 500,000 English-language copies sold, and more than a million copies worldwide, according to Franceschelli, who credits the engaging content for its popularity. “It underscored that level of interactivity, and a desire children have to be in control of their environment, therefore in control of their books. The child touches that first yellow dot, and something magical happens. That child knows innately that what happens when the page turns is not because of electronic wizardry hidden in the book, but the child’s imagination that powers the action. And I think that’s an incredibly empowering experience for a child. Press Here is sort of an anti-ebook. It was the artist’s conscious effort to create something that did not need electronics to power, but rather the child.”

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  • Barry Cohen

    SmartKidz Media has been publishing physical books with light and sound chips for many years. Their library of titles include educational material. visit:

  • Roxie Munro

    Print books have been interactive for many years, as Christopher says: Maze books, counting books, lift-the-flap/paper-engineered, search-n-find/hidden objects, guessing games, etc. I’ve been working on a crossmedia concept similar to that discussed in the article: an interactive app using AR (augmented realty) with markers placed on huge walk-in nonfiction print picture books to enhance learning and engagement. (BTW, also right on were the comments re creating the print art so that it can work crossmedia instead of having to be redone or distorted/manipulated to work in an app.)