E-books, e-book readers, touchscreens and other types of displays do not belong to the realm of fantasy any more, but are an indelible part of our reality. Interactivity is becoming a key ingredient of electronic publications. There are several projects dedicated to children that allow the practicing of important literacy skills, such as language development, story comprehension, sense of the structure, and collaboration in storytelling by playing and experimenting. These activities are crucial to a child’s development.
During middle childhood the most important seems to be a process of development involving increasingly creative use of playing to develop plots and episodes, the transition from individual to group play, the growing importance of language in plot development and the strengthening of links between play and social life. It is important that a child interacts with a book, not just by passively following a story but by participating in its creation upon every encounter. Graphic design should aim at facilitating the linguistic and social development of a child, at the same time stimulating his or her creativity and abstract thinking, as well as supporting the development of fine motor skills, which are all necessary to self-sufficiency.
Therefore this project’s key requirements involve the following aspects – educational, emotional, ergonomic as well as more detailed objectives:
Body mechanisms, which are necessary for the development of handwriting, are autonomy in dressing etc., a proper grip by hand and three fingers (tripod fingers grip), as well as the use of the non-dominant hand to hold paper. Proper positioning of the thumb and two other fingers is crucial for the correct holding of a pencil. This type of grip plays a key role in the mechanisms using fine manipulation.
Autonomy is based on the development of movements made in specific directions: up and down, inside and out, as well as circular. These are the same directions a child must master in order to write letters and digits. In dyspraxia therapy it is advised that “finger games” are used, such as the manipulation of puppets put on fingers, paper clips and clothes pegs (by manipulating these objects a child practices the opposition of a thumb and strengthens the three fingers participating in the pencil grip).
This paper presents the results of a qualitative user study conducted on a group of early readers (aged 6-9) in a primary school in Krakow, Poland, on a sample of 20 children. The presented solution is a new type of plot construction in a publication – an open structure that is not chronological but has some key points (like the beginning and end) predefined. It is also an attempt at using gestures, which are native to software in a way that is beneficial from the point of view of developmental psychology.
The prototypes of a paper and a digital tablet-based book made it possible to check children’s reaction to non-chronological storytelling application and aimed to verify the design principles along with fine motor skills needed to manipulate the objects on touch screens.
The aim of the study was to evaluate whether the paper book might help children learn the use of a more complex, tablet-based book, built using the same principles, but considering the usage of touchscreen and touch gestures. The test also aimed to verify the speed of mastering a user interface when little or no visual hints were provided.
The paper also explains how open structure designs, based on randomized elements, allow the expansion of the genre with educational books, aiming to help develop the young reader’s eye-to-hand coordination and make more engaging stories based on new content.
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