Apple’s iBooks StoryTime app for Apple TV will read to your kids

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Apple on Thursday released a new Apple TV application called iBooks StoryTime that brings children’s books to the TV’s big screen. Kids can flip through the pages of the books on their own, or switch on Read-Aloud narration which will sync the audio to the on-screen text and flip the pages for you.

The app, which works on 4th generation Apple TV devices that have access to tvOS App Store, is a free download, but the books themselves are not. There’s one free giveaway at launch so you can test the functionality: a Read-Aloud title called “Dora’s Big Buddy Race Read-Along Storybook.”

If you want to buy more books, you can do so from the StoryTime app itself, as well as via the iBookstore on Mac, iPhone and iPad. If you’ve already purchased compatible content through your Apple account, it will automatically show up here as well.

There aren’t that many supported titles available at present, but the list includes a few classics like “Goodnight Moon,” “The Little Red Hen,” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” for example. Popular characters like Sophia the First, Grover, and Cookie Monster also have books available, among others.

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As you can tell by the titles, the app is aimed at the preschooler crowd who is just starting to learn to read. For parents feeling guilty about plopping their kids in front of the TV, it’s nice to have an alternative to videos and games as an option.

The type of reading experience StoryTime offers isn’t new, but traditionally these sorts of apps have been limited to mobile and tablet devices.

To what extent this will keep kids occupied, of course, remains to be seen. From my experience as a parent, it’s difficult to get kids focused on reading, when the books on a platform where video and games are also available. (That’s why we still buy physical books, and read two every night.)

Apple, however, isn’t the only one thinking up new digital reading experiences in recent days. Amazon also just launched a kids reading app called Rapids, which uses a messaging-like interface to tell stories.

The iBooks StoryTime app is available as a free download on the Apple TV App Store, where it’s currently being featured in a banner at the top of the screen.