READING ONLINE IS AS MUCH A PART OF GENERATION Z’S CHILDHOOD AS STEPPING INTO A LIBRARY WAS FOR GENERATION X. BUT DOES THE IMPACT OF THE POWER OF WORDS OR THE UNLEASHING OF THE IMAGINATION THROUGH A STORY CHANGE IF READ ON A PAPER PAGE VERSUS A SCREEN? ARTIST, EBOOK AUTHOR AND ADVOCATE ELEANOR LONG BELIEVES NOT…
I love books. The feelings that spring to mind when I think of a good book is that of comfort, enjoyment, discovery and excitement which all ultimately lead to learning, memory and cognitive ability. It is about being transported into a world away from my own, opening opportunities and interests I never knew existed.
The image most may have of this kind of book is a print book, not necessarily an ebook (though I do prefer the term digital book which seems less dated somehow). This is such a shame as digital books have got so much to o er. An ebook is essentially an opportunity to appeal to many of the senses including movement and sound. A short looping animation of an illustration means that by including detail and subtlety an opportunity is given to study each image and discover more as time goes on. The movement involved illustrates a reaction (enhanced by sound) and the repetition of an image allows for the child to draw comfort and security in knowing detail will not be missed. Also any element in the motion or sound can trigger the imagination to promote a child’s own creativity in storytelling.
A digital book is a fantastic way to introduce sound, not only with narration but with a musical soundtrack and carefully constructed sound e ects which complement and enrich the story. As with audio books, the narration of a story means that with particular vocal intonation and care a certain emphasis and focus can be brought to a story. The element known as ‘read aloud’ offered by many ebooks (the words highlight in time with the narration) is ideal for a child to see the word as it is spoken and develop the direct association between the way it sounds, the way it is spelt and the meaning it holds.
An ebook can also offer personalisation, the ability for the reader to input their name into the story of a digital book, and it is also a great feature. It’s always fun to see yourself, even your name, on screen or ‘in print’ and it also creates a direct link to the story and characters in a much more invested and personal way.
During the development of our own digital book, we visited a local primary school to present the work to children ranging from five years old up to 11 and 12. Whilst presenting the story, the fundamental point that really engaged and excited the children was the element of fun and creativity. We were also struck by the wide use of screens as a teaching tool. By using screens teachers are able to share a class-wide experience in a real sense.
When we spoke to the head teacher, she emphasised the importance of having a ‘word bank’ in association with any book as a teaching tool. This means that a more complicated word has a list of similar-meaning words nearby to help explain any unknown or unusual words in a text. This helps to develop a wide vocabulary in a more natural way. In response to this, we developed the idea of a word definition feature. This is our ‘no child left behind’ policy! Any complicated or unusual word is underlined and this can be clicked on so a definition ‘pops’ up to explain the word within the context of the story. This is actually a good tool to both widen vocabulary and also to develop the characters and storyline beyond the verse on the page.
Within any ebook there is the opportunity to include interactive puzzles and mini-games which stimulate young minds in a good way and can be instrumental in developing inquisitive young minds. The element of fun and enjoyment is crucial to the learning experience and ultimately fun and (the right kind of) stimulation is what leads our minds to play and develop, and learn to inquire.
Ebooks, in general, do need to up their game so the image of ebooks can be raised to re ect the fantastic possibilities that they can o er so they can then be enjoyed for the medium itself and recognised for the bene t that they can o er. Digital books can be so much, let’s hope their potential is maximised to complement and enhance both the educational and fun aspects of reading.
Eleanor Long has had a successful career making models for TV and lm including The Borrowers and is one of the creators of interactive children’s book Galdo’s Gift.
Part book, part movie, this unique ‘BoovieTM’ is a funny tale, beautifully animated to create an enchanting classic making parents and children laugh and help build a love of reading. Voiced by King Galdo III aka Brian Murphy (Last of the Summer Wine and George & Mildred), four hapless heroes are waiting to guide the reader along the way through an enchanted animated world. If a word isn’t understood, just tap it and a fun de nition will pop up. Experience storytelling as never before, making learning to read magical. Co-created by skilled animator Trevor Young who worked on the Harry Potter series, you can buy now from the iBooks store RRP £6.99. Find out more at galdosgift.com