The heap of wrapped presents waiting around the Christmas tree in December in our part of the world is likely to shrink in the future. And this may be due not to a lesser number of gifts, but rather to their size : as a matter of fact, reading has entered the digital era.
A little hero strolling in a setting of roofs, who plunges head over heels and thus takes the young reader to follow the cascade1 with his/her tablet, the transparency and rustle of a ladybird’s displayed wings2 : such are the fantasies allowed by a numeric book read on a tablet. Mobile in the hands of the child, this distant offspring of the antic wax tablet provides multiple opportunities of exploration.
A flourishing sector
Children’s albums have always fostered particular creativity, ravishing us with soft covers, a play on volumes and textures, pop-ups and pull-tabs, not to mention the play involving fonts. What has the E-book or IPad device to offer in addition?
For the 17th edition of the event Journées d’AROLE (Fr), the Swiss Institute for Youth and Media (ISJM) decided to envision “the Future of Reading” and set up a two-day conference at the University of Lausanne. What is the input of numeric tools in culture diffusion? How do children read on these new media? Are there upcoming reading modes and expectations from readers? These were the issues tackled by writers, critiques and specialists of the new interfaces?
A new ecosystem?
After a colourful journey in various publisher universes, Cécile Desbois-Muller, chronicler for the AROLE newsletter, analyses pre-existing works transferred in numeric version, as well as creations for the screen. Technical quality and sensorial exhaustiveness account for the real fascination emerging from this already diversified sector.
As for engineer Frédéric Kaplan, he brings to light the new paradigm engendered by these works as far as control sharing between designer and reader is concerned. The mention of some narratives whose course makes reading to and fro impossible raises some fears : does this not verge on authoritarianism? The large playful options offered to the reader in most albums however allows to mitigate this fear.
Just as the hard book does, so the IPad application or E-book creates an island. But the outlines of this island differ in both cases. What new rituals shall we see emerge in parent-child accompanied reading? In reading before a peer or a doll audience? Are a certain sensorial redundancy and inevitable standardization of the narrative to be viewed as … youthful mistakes?. All these questions remain open on the threshold of what Frédéric Kaplan names “a new ecoysytem”.
From Reading to Literacy
A reflection on education and non-discrimination would dwell on the breakthroughs offered by numeric media in terms of access to culture, but also on possible inequities arising, in the presence of a digital divide.
Tomorrow children and adults will have to take a step further, from reading to literacy (Fr), which means mastering all kind of media. This is likely to make more arduous the implementation of art. 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the importance of media and access to information.
1 Renversant, Les petites mains 2011
2 La coccinelle, Gallimard Jeunesse, 2011
Swiss Institute for Youth and Media (ISJM) (Fr)
Association for Childhood and Youth Literature (Fr)
Children's albums : Cutting Edge Innovation (Fr) Frédéric Kaplan
Further reading :
Antonio Skármeta A special place for the imagination The future of the Book, The UNESCO Courier, October-December 2011
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