Tinker Stories
Extraordinarily engaging stories to foster emergent literacy using touchscreen tablet devices

TinkerStories are meaningfully interactive shared learning experiences, explicitly intended for parents to read with their children. Our approach, which we term as tinkerability, endows media with dynamic properties by linking words and objects to gestures. This allows readers to play with the link between words and concept. Tinkerability provides children with multisensory contexts within which to learn and associate meaning. It also allows readers to dynamically change the story as they tinker with the story elements.

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Extraordinarily engaging stories to foster emergent literacy using touchscreen tablet devices

Have you ever read a story with your child, and you both wanted to change the ending? Now imagine a book where you can not only change the ending, but also the beginning and middle as well! Word by word, image by image, TinkerStories allow you and your child to alter countless pieces of a story, using your fingertips, and watch the implications immediately unfold on the screen. This is innovative to the field of emergent literacy, as it improves comprehension of words via highly enhanced context while simultaneously strengthening bonds between parents and children as they read together.

Learning how to read early is a key predictor of a child’s academic success and is widely recognized as one of the most difficult things young children learn to do. Today, over 97% of children entering kindergarten cannot recognize a word, or find a word within the context of a sentence.

Emergent literacy is the stage where young children (ages 2-5) typically can begin to understand the concept of print. Parents or caregivers are the first instructors, reading to children at home by repeatedly demonstrating how text maps to speech and pictures. Eventually the child reaches the "A-ha!" moment of reading comprehension at which text 'maps' to spoken word and concept.

Mobile and tablet-based applications are rapidly becoming a principal medium through which children both play and learn. Tablet usage by children under 11 years will experience a compound annual growth rate of nearly 75% in the U.S. over the next two years, the fastest rising age demographic excluding adults over 65.

Based on the research of Dr. Angela Chang at the MIT Media Lab, TinkerStories employ an innovative approach to literacy built upon parent-child bonding and storytelling rituals. The vast majority of educational literacy mobile and tablet apps targeted for children are explicitly designed for children to play alone, marginalizing parents’ role as literacy guides. In stark contrast, TinkerStories are active-engagement learning tablet apps that allow children and parents to explore and read together through gestural and audio-visual interactions. Two key elements of emergent literacy are parental involvement and active learning. TinkerStories have been shown to increase these two critical factors.

TinkerStories provide meaningfully interactive shared learning experiences explicitly intended for parents to read with their children. Our approach, called tinkerability, endows media with dynamic properties by linking words and objects to gestures. Tinkerability provides children with multisensory contexts within which to learn and associate meaning. These features allow readers to explore the link between word and meaning, even before the purpose of the written word is understood. This is an active control that emergent readers would not otherwise have, allowing and encouraging them to better satisfy their own curiosity. Tinkerability also encourages parents to act out the words, making storytelling more engaging and fun.