Using Tar Heel Reader in app mode on your iPad

This is my second post in a short while about Tar Heel Reader – but I just wanted to take a look at some of the great new (and old) features while Tar Heel Reader’s new look is still fresh!  The second of these features is full screen or app mode – which is a perfect option for some students and for any of us who just want easier access to the site.

As I’ve said before, Tar Heel Reader is a free online resource that gives users access to a number of easy-to-read, accessible books (thanks to a collaboration between the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies and the department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) – and it is one of my most heavily used literacy tools for early readers and writers.

I’ve written recently about a way to select Tar Heel Reader books and import them into iBooks with speech support. But there are also times that we want a student to have access to the whole Tar Heel Reader website – to search for their own books and find the ones that will inspire them to do repeated self-selected reading or to do research. To help with this, the Tar Heel Reader site has been designed to take advantage of the full screen mode in your iPad’s Safari web browser – which is often referred to as app mode.  I’ve also found it really helpful for myself to have this setup as it makes it faster for me to go to the site and start browsing for books straight away.

To get Tar Heel Reader running in full screen mode on your iPad, the first thing you need to do is to add a shortcut to Tar Heel Reader on your home screen. To do this, you need to open Safari on your iPad and navigate to Once the site is displayed, then press the arrow that is up on the top menu bar of Safari. You should see several options appear as in the picture below. Select the option “Add to Home Screen”.

On one of your iPad’s home screens the Tar Heel Reader icon will now appear – as shown in the picture below.  It now just looks like an app, and you can treat it like an app and drag it into a folder or to another home screen if needed.

From now on, you can simply launch Tar Heel Reader by tapping this icon – and when it opens it will launch in full screen or app mode as shown below.

As well as the quick access to the site this offers, full screen mode also gives you some great advantages. Firstly, the site will now re-open on the last page you were using each time you go back to it.  Secondly (and perhaps most importantly), the menu bar from Safari isn’t visible and the Tar Heel Reader website fills the whole screen, which reduces possible distractions as well as making it simpler visually. It also means that you can use the great iPad Accessibility feature Guided Access so that the student can only access the Tar Heel Reader website on the iPad.  They can spend their self-selected reading time browsing the site, selecting and reading books without the other distractions that the iPad sometimes offers ;).

And please be aware that this won’t work with every website – the site has to be configured to do this by the developers.  It’s typical of the Tar Heel Reader people that they have thought ahead and offered this really useful option.

I hope you find this helpful!  🙂

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Comments (8)

  1. Amanda Bryden


    Ahh that is very cool! Love the new set up and the fact that the menu bar is not visible!

  2. Laura Jones


    Jane, a quick question, is it my wifi playing up or does it always take a good 10 seconds to load the page? When I click on the app I get a white screen for almost 10 seconds before it opens. Is this normal? Thanks! (We have been having big wifi issues at our place which were only resolved today…and maybe they aren’t yet resolved after all!)

    • jane


      HI Laura – that time delay isn’t usual at all. Sometimes when I’m at a particular school that has slow internet we’ll find it takes a few seconds to start and then there might be a delay on some pages but that’s all. At my house it’s virtually instant but we have very fast WiFi.

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