Books apps and new literary experiences

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By Aline Frederico*
High Tech Column
Translated by Julio Carvalho de Soares

We continue a series of posts on various forms in which literature and technology meet. This time I will talk about book apps. Nowadays there is an app for (almost) everything, including those to read books digitally, like the iBooks and Kindle. But the book app is an app that is a book on its own. In other words, each app works as an individual book and not as an entire library.

Truth is, however, that book apps can offer a different reading experience that of a traditional book, be it printed or digital. With audio resources, such as narration, sound effects and soundscapes, illustrations that can be fully or partially animated, and the possibilities of interactivity, some apps present a way of telling stories like we have never seen before.

Under this umbrella which we call book app, there are many ways of combining audiovisual and interactive resources with what we know traditionally as a way of telling stories in a book format. In this article, I will focus on two apps, discussing how they can contribute to the development of Portuguese as a Heritage Language.

Creating your own version of fairy tales
One of the most popular genres in app-books are fairy tales. There is a huge amount of apps telling traditional stories, generally focused on early-readers.

The “Editora Manati” was one of the first to publish stories such as Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, Princess and the Frog in this format. Years have passed  and these are still some of my favorite apps in Portuguese.

In these versions, in which stories were adapted to the contemporary times, it is possible to hear the narrative from the perspective of different characters. How about hearing the wolf’s side of the story? Or even better, how about creating your own version of the story? Accompanied by the visual narrative created by the renowned illustrator Mariana Massarani, the reader can use the function to tell their own version and then hear themselves afterwards.

This function has great potential for Brazilian families living abroad. For example, while visiting Brazil, a friend or family member can record their own version of the story. This can strengthen the link with a language and the family that lives in another country. One limitation is that this app only lets you record one version, so, new recordings eliminate previous ones.

For children that would rather speak the local language, this function can become a game, in which one of the rules can be that, when telling a story, you can only speak Portuguese. This way, you create a moment to insert Portuguese in a literary experience in everyday family interactions. By listening to themselves, children will notice their development over time, which can positively influence their self-esteem as a competent speaker of Portuguese.

These apps still offer games and activities. On Little Red Riding Hood, it is possible to play dress up with the main character (and even a big bad wolf costume can be used) or the wolf (which obviously has a grandma costume). Readers can also color scenes from the story or imagine what the wolf has in his tummy, which can be filled with a drawing or photograph.

Manati Publisher recently announced the end of its commercial activities (unfortunately), so the apps are not currently available in the App Store. We hope some other publisher will revive these masterpieces of digital children’s literature soon. We will let you know if that happens. In the meanwhile, another great Brazilian app that allows readers to audio-record their read-alouds is Pequenos Grandes Contos de Verdade, by Editora Caixote. You can know more about this app in another post.

Diving into folklore
To live a little bit of the Brazilian culture, no matter where you are, Meu aplicativo do Folclore (My Folklore App) – On IOS and Google – is a great collection of Brazilian Folklore. It is a Jabuti Prize winner in the children’s digital publication category by the great folklore specialist Ricardo Azevedo.

The rich content is illustrated and shows, besides the written text, narration and, in some cases, the possibility to record your reading or singing.

Tongue-twisters, quotes, stories, even a bestiary of very Brazilian creatures (such as Mula-sem-cabeça [Headless Mule] and the Curupira) make a rich material that surely will have parents feeling full of nostalgia of their childhood in Brazil, while promoting an affective link with our culture that very likely will be noticed by and extended towards the children. The material brings essential cultural aspects of our Brazilian identity that can support the development of this identity in the Little Brazilians.

This app can even promote an opportunity for playful engagement with Portuguese, which many times is restricted living in another country. The possibility of playing with the form and the meanings of language have been proven effective in the development of the linguistic abilities of children.

To conclude, it is worth mentioning that, although the children can access these stories in an independently fashion even if they don’t know yet how to read, parents’ participation and the dialogue that can be initiated from these narratives have a huge potential to make this linguistic and literary experiences even richer. Therefore, sit with your child to read and play, in Portuguese.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 7.29.22 PMAline Frederico is a PhD researcher in Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge. Her focus is on interactive books for tablets. She collaborates with the newly created blog Literatura Infantil Digital and coordinates the project Historinhas em Cambridge, where she hosts storytelling sessions in Portuguese. At Plataforma Brasileirinhos, Aline coordinates the  High Tech column.

 

 

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