by Laura Austin
As an English student, I can see first-hand how easily screens, and particularly my mobile phone, distract me from my reading. Why focus on a single page when I can endlessly scroll through social media feeds showing me different content with every touch? The temptation of these screens did not exist when I was a child, and so my love of books was given the opportunity to grow, enabling my adult self to use that experience to remind me how to get lost in a book. But what about children today? Will they ever choose a book over the chance to be in front of a screen? This is a growing concern for many, which has led to the development of a number of programmes encouraging children to read.
Following the mentality of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, the immersive content company Inception have released the app Bookful: an augmented reality app that brings books to life. The company’s idea to combine screen time and reading has landed them on the shortlist for The FutureBook BookTech Startup of the Year, and rightly so given that their aim is to provide new ways for children to connect with books. Their app features a read mode and a play mode, which allows children to interact further with the story, enhancing their comprehension skills, and perhaps more importantly, their enjoyment of the book.
Away from the screen, the Summer Reading Challenge encourages children to dive into books. I participated in and loved the challenge when I was a child, so I volunteered at the local library last summer to get involved with it. The challenge aims to motivate children to continue reading outside of term time, using a variety of prizes as incentives. But it does much more than that; it facilitates an environment for children to talk about and be questioned about their favourite books, or even a chance to complain about books they don’t like. One day a 5-year-old dinosaur enthusiast told me all about his favourite dinosaurs and relayed a multitude of facts about them all. What made his passion all the more heart-warming is that a book had provided him with all of this information – and he loved it.
It’s irrelevant whether a child is reading with a screen or a book. In a TED Talk delivered by Sara Dewitt, she emphasises the importance of learning in an encouraging and interested environment. The impact and the love of reading comes from interaction with the child, from the new worlds that they are able to create, and the conversations that they can have about them. Reading feeds their interests, their imagination and their learning. We have a responsibility to show them this so that like me, they know how to choose reading over scrolling.