The Stimulating Adventures for Young Learners (SAYL) project enables young children to engage in new adventurous stories. The project is building a book platform that includes high quality, interactive, digital stories in the majority and minority languages used in the five participating countries (Malta, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Turkey). The platform is online and constructed to allow free access through most modern devices.
The platform can therefore make books available to children who are for various reasons deprived of good picture books. The books will have multimedia features that support meaning-making. In addition, the books include the possibility of adapting the semantic richness to children's narrative understanding, choosing a language, and interacting with audio, video, and animation. We present the books on a platform that provides, apart from access, the possibility to select a book and a language. Furthermore, it is equipped with features to motivate children to return to the platform.
We expect the book platform to increase and enrich book reading in Early Childhood and Care organisations and families. The families' close cooperation with the Centres that access the platform can bolster the book reading routine in families. The platform may boost book reading, particularly in disadvantaged groups, like immigrant children, children speaking a minority language, or children deprived of good picture books due to socio-economic factors or a pandemic.
We are designing digital picture books for young children, including an oral narrative, thus enabling children to listen from an early age to narratives even when there is not an adult present to read to them. In addition, by offering a choice of languages, children may be able to read stories in their first and second language. We will equip the books with enhancements supporting meaning-making to outweigh the effects of an adult focusing, pointing, commenting, and explaining. However, of course, the enhancements cannot replace the social-emotional aspects of joint book reading.
We will initiate an open-access platform that includes books with multimedia, a voiced text, and the option to listen to a simplified narrative and interact with the book. We are also devising a plan to develop the platform further and expand the supply of books after SAYL ends. Sorely needed are digital book formats grounded in (multimedia) learning theories. To create and author high-quality materials, we need a collaborative process integrating the expertise of app developers, literacy educators, and specialists in digital and second-language learning. Collaboration is indispensable in developing materials that combine literary features with digital affordances.
Furthermore, we intend to equip the books with a choice of languages. Apart from widely spoken European languages (English and German), we include less widely spoken languages such as Maltese, Norwegian, Dutch, Bulgarian, Turkish, and Sami. The users can easily choose and switch between languages.
Early childhood education and care services will use the books and provide families with access to digital books. For instance, they may ask parents to read particular books preceding sessions with the same books in the Centres or schools. They thus establish contact and cooperation with families, which might be especially crucial for families in a vulnerable or disadvantaged situation.
More information about the work of the Centre for Literacy may be found on our website.