Six-year-old John Tambunan loves the iPad just like many of his friends, but unlike them, he recently used the tablet to write and publish his own book.
The book, “Little Fish,” has been downloaded more than 1,000 times and made it into the top 50 of the US iBookstore. It includes pictures of his fishing adventure at a river near his home, with a plot simple enough for children to follow and an audio recording of the tale for those who cannot read.
And he wrote it all with the iPad app Book Creator.
“Little Fish” began as a personal project between John and his mother, Jane Ross, a technology coach at Sinarmas World Academy in Bumi Serpong Damai, Banten, where John is enrolled. It started when John came home one day and proudly showed Ross a fish he had caught at a nearby river.
As a teacher and technology coach, Ross encouraged her son to try telling his fishing story, and since Apple had recently launched the iBookstore, she decided to give it a look. She helped create the book’s illustrations and typed the story for him, since he is just learning to read, and she went back to the river with him to take photos with her mobile phone.
After recording the narrative for the audio feature, they finished the book in a few hours. The longer part was waiting for approval from Apple.
Ross, who is originally from Melbourne but has lived in Indonesia for 16 years, is also an Apple Distinguished Educator who shows teachers how to incorporate technology in their lessons. She also occasionally works on special projects with students, and she decided to bring John’s book to school for his friends to read.
Now, she said, many students want to publish their own stories, while Nahyeon Kim, in 11th grade, has already written a book with illustrations on iTunes.
Ross contacted Apple to get a better grasp on publishing rules.
“If the child is younger than 13, the parent will publish for the child and take responsibility, making sure the content is original, and then you can publish it,” she said.
The Book Creator app, which costs $4.99 on the App Store, is giving children new opportunities to share their work around the world, Ross said. John’s book has been downloaded more than 1,500 times in several countries, including the United States, Germany, Poland, Russia, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, where it is now No. 7 on the charts.
Ross has about 20 unpublished books on her iPad, which she proofreads for her students.
“We can’t believe no one else in the world is doing this in schools,” she said.
Her school’s chief executive, John McBryde, recently traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, for an international Apple conference, where he asked if other schools were also encouraging students to publish books, but none had.
Ross said she felt strongly about helping her students learn how to write good stories and about promoting the new digital publishing tool.
“I have been here for a long time. My husband is Indonesian, and I know there are problems with publishing in Indonesia, especially books for kids,” she said.
The biggest issue in Indonesia is that Apple users here cannot download these books, though she said Apple was starting to open it up for Asia. She plans to raise the issue at the Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute, an event in Ireland that she will attend with 200 other educators in July.
She also hopes teachers can start publishing so they can write books they may need in the classroom.
“We think it’s a revolution in our school,” she said. “We are seeing the beginning of the publishing revolution.”