To mark National Read Across America Day, Google Play Books is getting a pair of tools to make the Android and iOS apps more friendly for kids and young readers. 

The app has always been “primarily designed for proficient readers,” but Google last year set out to “rethink what learning to read means for younger readers, their parents, and anyone else who may be a beginning reader.” It follows the launch of Kids Space on Android tablets, and a Teacher Approved Apps section in the Play Store.

Launching a kids title in Google Play Books takes readers to a landscape UI with large touch targets. The top-left corner has a big button to go back, while there’s a tray at the bottom-center to:

  • Read & listen: Listen to a book read out loud, with a choice of whether the pages turn automatically or manually
  • Zoom out and scroll through all pages
  • Bookmark a page

Meanwhile, readers are able to tap any word to hear it spoken aloud. A question mark will appear above to launch the “Kid Friend Dictionary” with thousands of entries. Many of them include “illustrations to support comprehension and learning.”

Google touts a large catalog of books aimed at ages 0-8 that feature these tools. Free samples let parents determine if these capabilities are supported, while there’s a “Read & listen” badge in Play Store listings. Free books today include:

  • We’re Amazing, 1-2-3!: This Sesame Street story stars Elmo, Abby, and their friend Julia, who has autism. Together, the three pals have a delightful playdate.
  • Ara the Star Engineer: This is a STEM book on a mission! An inspiring, inclusive, whimsical way to learn about computers and technology from real-life trailblazers, written by a Googler.
  • Family Forever: This Sesame Street picture book features Julia and her family and friends as they spend a day in the park.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: