Book Events · Panel Notes

Discover Stories: Getting Children Reading and Writing

Please note these are the notes I took during the panel, all of these are my jottings down and are not direct quotes from any panel member

Sally Goldsworthy – Discover Children’s Story Centre, London.

Discover Children’s Story Centre, set up 2003, Stratford, East London. Promote children’s literature and reading for pleasure. 80,000 visitors per year. Aim to spark children’s imagination. Staff are called storybuilders, aim to facilitate children’s storytelling. School groups in the week, families at the weekend. Work with foundation, KS1 and KS2.

Feel stories help to build connections, develop empathy, link old with new. Encompass visual storytellers and all ways of telling stories. Process is about asking open ended questions. Very physical, very visual. Lots of different environments within building, very sensory. Very low tech, didn’t want lots of buttons to push and then wait for action. Lots of creative environments, dress up, listening, writing mirrors. Host lots of activities, festivals etc.

Some research has shown that some families see literacy as being antisocial and therefore don’t place value on reading at home. This is something that Discover are trying to educate against. Encouraging families to read and share stories.

Have an illustrator created installation a year, an immersive environment, like walking into a picture book. Previous one was designed by Ed Vere, Sarah McIntyre and Neal Layton. Current one is Superheroes by Steve May. These installations always have a story that can be accessed on various levels, for this it is Alphabet City, evil letter Y has stolen all the vowels. Lots of problems to be solved e.g. dog can’t “Woof” as there are no o’s. These aesthetic values have driven the new project.

Story cloud http://www.storycloud.co.uk – Project being delivered as part of 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Goes live 18th June, runs until 9th September.

Discover’s previous digital experience – have a good website tailored to getting people to visit centre. Other than this had little experience but experience from Connecting Stories project. Spent 3 years in Newham collecting stories from the community, recording them (professionally edited), encouraged them to tell their stories – white working class families were the ones who responded that they didn’t have stories, different to e.g. Bengali mum’s group, West Indian elders. Think this relates to the concept of what a story is, white culture does not necessary consider things to be stories that other cultures do.

Looked at concept there are just 7 archetypal story plots. Neil Philip “The Cinderella Story” collects many versions of the Cinderella story together. Project in schools looked at connections between these versions. One major issue they found is the Disneyfication of stories e.g. the children’s Cinderellas always come back to singing mice!

Other drivers behind digital project were 1) looking at the fact children are spending increasing amounts of time engaging with digital, many stories are adventure led or picture book with minimal interaction. Since starting the project however things like Nosy Crow have improved app presence hugely. 2) high quality of iPad images. 3) Based in Stratford, so Olympic games a big influence.

London Festival 2012 is culmination of cultural olympiad. Lots of things going on UK wide. Lots of opportunities for participation. Discover felt there was nothing to showcase children’s reading and writing so that is what they’re doing.

Wanted to create a free app that didn’t require iPhone / iPad or other expensive device to access. Wanted to give children’s stories equal weighting to adults’. Met with Winged Chariot press, they produce multilingual apps, who are allowing the app to be made as a web app that can be accessed through Chrome or Safari. Acknowledged there have to be compromises, that the app can only be accessed through these browsers is the compromise needed.

R&D found parents like using computer with children as an enjoyable shared activity rather than to monitor. Most use PCs rather than tablets etc (also this means app is suitable for library computer use, school computer use, electronic whiteboard use). Most commonly used sites / activities are those linked to TV shows e.g. Cbeebies, and games sites e.g. Moshi Monsters.

Worked with Sarah McIntyre and Philip Ardagh to develop test story, included just simple click animation – two or three click e.g. click a character and eyes move. Tests showed that you need to read the story first before you can start playing or the story gets forgotten about.

Commissioned 12 stories, 8 from established authors and 4 from community (3 from children, 1 from a mum in Haringey). Will release one a week for 12 weeks. Each story illustrated wonderfully. Choose story, first see text and hear it being read. Once you get to the end the picture will come up and you will be able to play with it and make things happen. Still relatively simple, not an animated film. After you’ve seen the illustration there’ll be a task and a challenge for the children. These will be open ended enough for children to be able to write what they want but not so open ended that it feels like homework. Responses can be emailed or posted by regular mail. Will create a gallery on Discover’s website with as many as possible uploaded. Will be a selection so that if things are unsuitable they won’t be included.

Some tension over the authenticity, how much do you correct e.g. child’s immature use of language, adult telling story in additional language. As a result the text accompanying the audio will have minor adjustments only.

In addition to the author / illustrator’s story there will be information about their work and they will recommend a book too.

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