My quest to get kids reading real books, with the power of smartphones.
GUEST COLUMN | by Dave Fahrer
Most parents — luddites and the Amish aside — are raising digital natives: kids who know how to use smartphones better than you. Kids are naturally drawn to that soft glow of screens the way flies are lured into lamps at night. And somehow, they instinctively know how to navigate the screens. They intuitively tap and slide tiny fingers. “Wi-fi” has entered their vocabulary before “CD”. iPhones and Androids have just as strong of an allure as sugar, which is saying something.
This new era of digital natives and digital citizens is not without controversy, however. Moms are busy texting while pushing baby-strollers. Kids are pacified with iPads at restaurants; portable TV-like stand-in babysitter. Parents fret over whether or not this portable screen time is bad or not for their children, or if the toddler’s penchant for “selfies” is making them narcissistic.
All of this noise over “is tech good for children or not” is irrelevant. What is indisputable is the digital age we live in is changing how kids learn.
All of this noise over “is tech good for children or not” is irrelevant. What is indisputable is the digital age we live in is changing how kids learn. Education technology is at the forefront of educators and parents alike. There are the undisputed benefits, of course, of these advances, such as convenience and a level of engagement that the static television medium could not provide. As a developer of games and apps myself, I know how engaging interactive apps can be for young children. But when my son was born, I felt a subtle panic set in: what about the traditions of our own childhood? I already felt nostalgia for that irreplaceable experience of reading a real book with your child. I didn’t want to give that up, but also wanted him to benefit from what technology can offer.
A lot arguments are made for more tech, many are made for less. It struck me then that we don’t have to choose between the two.
Rather, why not think about integrating traditional media with tech? I thought that if we could use the smartphone as a tool, as a part rather than the whole, then the emphasis would be less on the device and more on what it has to offer. I designed a book where a smartphone is strapped into the back of the book, and then turns into the “brains” of the book, by integrating with each page. Little Magic Books was born.
I’m eager to develop more ways to use this format in the future, and getting kids excited about reading books again.
I recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to make the Little Magic Books dream become a reality; and so far, the feedback has been amazing. Parents and backers have been sharing my sentiment on bridging the gap between the digital and the traditional, saying things like: ” I see how kids can get glued to their parents’ iPhones and iPads and we want to make sure our kid has an appreciation for physical books,”.
There are even more possibilities my supportive backers have brought up to me: incorporating racial diversity into one book by way of the app (thus reducing printing costs), different languages, math problems, and more.
What do you think of raising digital natives in this technological age? How do you read books with your child? How else do you think we can use the print book & app format to better our books?
I’d love to hear — tweet at me @LittleMagicBook and check out my Kickstarter: