I see it in my own home with a child who CAN read, but who chooses not to do so. That is to say, he reads massive quantities of written text, but not in book format. The trend I’m seeing in him (and a lot of his friends – most of whom he has only ever met virtually,) is that the text/image/interactivity has moved away from the traditional format – books – and is moving toward something that is nearly impossible to pin down. There are the on-line games that require some reading within the game, research outside of the game, (mostly on-line,) and creative story telling through RPGs. (RPG stands for “role playing games”. It’s what we used to call “playing pretend”.)
But it goes beyond “Half Life 2” and “MineCraft”. In a recent Ted Talk, Shila Shiv Suleman promotes her new children’s story, KHOYA, but also gives us a sneak peek into a new platform in which books, art, image, text, animation, sound and TOUCH come together. Yes, it is multi-sensorial. Through her book, which is an interactive app for the I-Pad, the reader is not only engaged in the story, but they become a part of the story. By entering your name, the reader becomes a character in the book, and through GPS technology, the story incorporates the reader’s setting.
It is interactive, physically, in that parts of the book require the reader to take action with the i-pad, through photography, interactions through touch, and sound. Essentially, this is a fantasy book, but like something out of Harry Potter, the treasure maps in the book become interactive! Blow, (literally,) to sweep virtual leaves away from the touch screen to continue the story. Go outside with your i-pad and take a picture of a flower to add to a library. Mobile technology takes reading mobile.
More recently, I’ve found myself involved in a new promotion tool that, once again, promises to take a previously book-based readership outside of books. Through this promotion, young adult writers host a scavenger hunt – a real time game of hide-n-seek in the virtual world of author blogs and web-sites. Within each web-site or blog is hidden content, a sort of mini-prize for those committed enough to engage in the search. Slightly larger prizes take the form of swag and individual book giveaways through mini-raffles for “following” author blogs. The grand prize to one lucky participant is 20 autographed books – one from each author participating. Of course, those books are traditional format books.
On the one hand, it is all a bit overwhelming for a lone author. How to compete in the global market? How to remain up-to-date with technology that appeals to a young reader's Literacy Today? On the other hand, it’s all VERY exciting. Books are taking twists and turns, not only pushing the envelope with regard to content, but in their ability to allow the writer to connect – literally – with readers. The YA Scavenger Hunt begins March 29th. Hope some of you will choose to join in. Maybe you have a YA who is a non-traditional reader. The grand prize is books - lots of books - and the game is a baby step toward making reading interactive! Join in the fun. (Updates to follow as we get closer to the date.)