Promoting literacy by helping children discover new books

April 15 / 155

 

Researchers at Department of Computing and Information Systems have collaborated with the Melbourne Library Service to launch BookFish, a web platform designed to allow primary school children to explore the world of books.

 

The platform uses unique technology to explore content rather than using a direct search, allowing children to easily find reading material that best matches their interests and skill levels.

 

Bookfish was developed by Dr Jon Pearce and Associate Professor Shanton Chang, with the assistance of Melbourne-based strategic design and technology agency, Involved.

 

Children can nominate their reading preferences by using a series of interactive sliders, and select for genre, such as humour, fantasy, action and historical elements, as well as the difficulty level.

 

Children can then use BookFish to build a reading list from recommended books. They can check whether these books are available at their local library, and can place them on hold. They can later rate the books to benefit other users, or record their own audio reviews of the books.

 

Dr Pearce said that young children prefer to follow their peers’ recommendations, or simply move through a familiar series of books, rather than be directed by adults.

 

The system underpinning the BookFish platform is called iFish, software developed by Dr Pearce and colleagues. 

 

“iFish is a system to help ‘exploration’. We distinguish that from ‘search’ because when you search, you often know what you are looking for,” Dr Pearce said. “When exploring, you are often much less directed."

 

Rather than narrowing searches to specific keywords, iFish allows searchers to  ‘wallow around’ for a while looking at likely possibilities based on users’ preferences. 

 

“We want to help [children] find new books that they might otherwise not have discovered – that serendipitous find that you often experience when browsing a physical library shelf, but not so much online,” Dr Pearce said.

 

Bookfish is available at http://www.bookfish.net.au.

 

More information on the iFish exploratory system can be found at the project webpage.

 

Story by Greta Harrison

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