To Teach Reading by Playing (with) the Literary Wor(l)d: On Kid E-literature and Literacy

Abstract (in English): 

One of the e-literature development effects is that the literary theorists more and more frequently take into consideration the role of literary interfaces (maybe we can even talk about the “interface turn” in literary studies?). Many theorists (e.g. Pressman, Hayles, Drucker or Polish theorists of liberature/liberacy) show that analogue literary forms are neither limiting nor worse or less creative than electronic ones. Both can offer readers literary texts that should be used (played, interacted), works that arise “on demand” and tell the story with various code/media/modes. Both can differ from the traditional view of literary communication.

Children’s literature has always activated these aspects. That is why one of the most difficult tasks for e-writers is to create innovative, original and attractive electronic children’s literature (showing and teaching that not only printed literature, but also electronic forms, are worth reading, or that the latter might even be a better choice). Books addressed to children have never made clear differences between “read” and “play” (in all senses of the last one), nor distinguished between codes. Before we read “adult literature” we become used to playing with literary texts to immerse ourselves in virtual, literary worlds. And we learn how to enter them by playing, by interacting. Then, as adult readers, we usually “switch on” the literature of invisible interfaces, the literature which continues the tradition of “unmarked texts” as Druckner called it. But nowadays (in time of technotexts, the performative turn, convergence culture and the aesthetics of bookishness etc.) we do not have to “switch on”, we can use both of these modes. So we should become competent in both ways of reading. And writers should know how to (creatively) use any media (interfaces) for a literary purpose.

In my presentation I will show some strategies used in the newest children’s e-literature (especially AR books and playable stories) to train young readers to enter into the literary world, facilitate immersion and make the literary world more playable and attractive to these readers. I would like to concentrate on examples that explore the possibilities of technology without losing the literary advantages of the work. The use of these same strategies in analogue children’s literature and some “old” children’s e-literature (like Lulu’s Enchanted Book) will be an important context here.

I will search for children’s e-literature that uses transmedia strategies, does not kill the literary aspects of the work, nor falls into a trap of semantic tautologies between the used media/modes/codes. I will be looking for examples that do not replace all artistic effects with the technological wow-effect (which – when semantically important – is nothing bad) to show what new technology can really offer to children’s literature and to young readers (and reading).

As examples I will use both remediated books (e.g. Pinocchio or The Voyage of Ulysses by Elastico Press; Alice in Wonderland and remediated fairytales; remediated Themersons’ works or Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and The Bottle) and digitally born publications (like different AR books by Baibuk and other publishers, Khoja, The Winter House, Inanimated Alice and others). As an important “analogue” context I will discuss pop-up books (e.g. Sabuda’s works) and so-called peepshow books (in the context of AR books), children-addressed game books, like Frabetti’s novels (in the context of playable, interactive and hypertextual stories) and (in various cases) illustrated children’s books and convergence books (e.g. Cathy’s Book).

(source: ELO 2015 conference catalog)

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Hannah Ackermans