AR will help reading win the screen-time battle

Today, parents are in a power struggle with their children. Parents want children to read books, but children want to watch videos or play games on a tablet. And, because adults are having to work harder than ever at their jobs, they don’t have the energy at the end of the day to fight them, so they relinquish. In a Nielsen Book Research survey Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer, co-funded by Egmont, published earlier this year, 58% of parents of young children were not reading to them for a number of reasons, including the parent’s tiredness and the child’s desire to do other things, specifically, watching videos online.

The Educational Testing Services in the US reported that students who do more reading at home are better readers and have higher maths scores, so reading at home is crucial to both literacy and other learning.  If we don’t want our children to become YouTube zombies, we must find a way to meet them on their turf and engage them with stories and information in ways that entice them. Enter Augmented Reality (AR).

The new reality

“Simply put, we believe augmented reality is going to change the way we use technology forever. We’re already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn,” said Apple c.e.o. Tim Cook.

AR has been around for several years, but it has only been in the last year that the development of the smartphone processor screen, camera and visual recognition technologies have come together to make AR work seamlessly on all modern devices and look visually stunning. Pokémon Go catapulted AR into the forefront of our minds and, with that success, every industry jumped into the fray, finding ways to use the AR device we all have in our pockets—our phones—make consumers engage with the world around them in completely new ways.

As digital natives, children today are comfortable with technology in a way that adults aren’t, eager to play with an app or a device until they learn how it works. AR is no different and AR content developed specifically for children is on the rise.

Learning to love screen time

The Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer survey showed that “three in five parents with children in this age group [three to five year-olds] worry about the amount of time their children spend in front of a screen.” Although it’s not spelled out in the study, based on our research and experience, most parents are less concerned if they know that there’s something educational on that screen.  

In practice, when parents don’t have time or energy to read to children and children need books for future learning, screen time can be a good alternative. By bringing reading into screen time in a new way that allows children to be able to read or follow along with the words on their own, to engage with characters in new ways, to make books more interactive, AR is able to help children tackle more complex ideas and build life-long readers.

Additionally, some children are not prepared to read by the time they enter school. In a report released in 2015, Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose, authors Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin and Joan Wolfsheimer Almon illustrate that forcing children to read before they are ready may be harmful to future learning. Instead, “active, play-based experiences in language-rich environments help children develop their ideas about symbols, oral language and the printed word — all vital components of reading.”

So, creating fun, interactive reading experiences coupled with a book that reads the story aloud to a child allows for learning at the child’s own speed and, perhaps, further engagement in books at an earlier age.

These are our hopes in creating Bookful, our platform featuring a library of AR experiences for classic and contemporary children’s books offering both the full book which can be narrated to the child plus games involving some of the lessons learned in the stories. AR provides a richer engagement with the story, better reading comprehension, and an ability to better connect with content for the future. Most importantly, we hope that the interactivity and playfulness of AR will inspire in children a love of reading that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Benny Arbel is c.e.o of Bookful, which launched earlier this month and can be downloaded on iTunes. He will be taking part in the Pitch Your Startup session at FutureBook Live on 30th November.