One of my friends and I were talking the other day about free children’s books apps and how important they are for helping kids get excited about reading. I was excited to discover that Amazon has a free children’s book library app called Amazon Rapids, which is perfect for elementary-aged readers to explore several different genres. Today, I will be sharing my review of the free Amazon Rapids app, with a special interest in vision impairment accessibility.
What is Amazon Rapids?
Amazon Rapids is a free service that features original children’s stories told in a chat-style format for readers with developmental ages of 5-12. There are hundreds of stories available in the app with full-color illustrations and easy-to-read text that is popular with reluctant readers.
Required technology skills
In order to use the app successfully, users must have the following technology skills:
- Ability to scroll through a list
- Ability to select an item on the screen
This app required limited technology skills, making it perfect for young children. However, it does require an internet connection.
How to create a profile on Amazon Rapids
After downloading the Amazon Rapids app and logging into the associated Amazon account, users are required to set up at least one child profile so books at the appropriate reading level are recommended. Users are required to share the following information from a list of options
- Age, ranging from 5 and under to 12 and over
- Avatar, which identifies the profile
- A name for the profile- each avatar has a default name, or users can edit it to be a different name
- Interests/favorite genres
For the purposes of testing this app, I created four profiles. I created two profiles for 7-year-olds, one boy and one girl, and two profiles for 12-year-olds, one boy and one girl. It’s worth noting that the book selection was not any different for boys versus girls.
When the Amazon Rapids app opens, users select a profile and then go to the main library screen. The main library screen featured several sections, all arranged horizontally, with the following categories for books:
- Recently viewed
- For you (recommended reading)
- Recent additions
- Computers and Technology
- Fairy Tales
- Holidays and Celebrations
- Nature and Outdoors
- Scary Stories
- Science Fiction
To display more books in each category, users can select the “see all” button on the far right side, which shows all available books on the screen. There is also a search button on the top left side of the screen.
I found that the large print in the Amazon Rapids stories was often large enough for me to read without any additional settings, though the app works fantastic with Zoom and other screen magnifiers.
Amazon Rapids also works great with VoiceOver on iPad, allowing users to independently navigate the app without any assistance, provided that they have the skills required to use VoiceOver. I prefer to disable VoiceOver and have the default character voices read the story out loud, but it can definitely read text if needed.
Characteristics of each book
Since all of the stories featured in the app are original and exclusive to Amazon Rapids, users are encouraged to explore different books and genres, instead of just binge reading one series. Each story is told in a chat-like format that still retains proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. All of the stories are age-appropriate and parents are highly unlikely to find objectionable content on the app.
Reading a book
To read a book with the Amazon Rapids app, follow these instructions:
- Select a title from the main menu
- Choose whether you want to enable “read along mode” which reads text out loud
- Scroll downwards to progress in the story
- If desired, click the pause button in the center to enable/disable read along or enable/disable scroll mode, which determines whether text should be displayed one box at a time or all at once
- Enjoy your book!
Amazon Rapids and Amazon Alexa
In addition to the app, users can also have Amazon Rapids books read out loud using Amazon Alexa. Just ask Alexa to “read a bedtime story” and the device will read a 5-7 minute story chosen at random.
I’m really glad that Amazon has made the Amazon Rapids service free for all users, as it is a great way to expose kids to different books that they might not otherwise have discovered. I also appreciate that accessibility was taken into consideration, since many students with vision impairments are at a high risk of not reading at grade level. I highly recommend trying out the Amazon Rapids app and exploring all of the different stories it has to offer.