Technology has come under fire recently for its potential harms to kids - spanning the targeting of underage users on social media, disturbing YouTube videos masquerading as ‘child friendly’, and the since debunked yet-still-utterly-terrifying 'Momo challenge' scare.
In a world where even tech CEOs say they are weaning their kids off technology, it's sometimes hard to remember that technology can still be a rich provider of educational and entertaining experiences for children.
The market for educational tech - or edtech - is continuing to grow and the UK is proving itself as something of a hub, claiming 40% of the €1.6 billion that has been invested in European edtech startups since 2014. Yap Books is one startup focused on harnessing tech to create an engaging reading tool for young children.
Called ‘voice controlled books’, children can read - via an app - along to stories where the words trigger the unfolding of animations, immersing them in the world of the story. Children are also rewarded based on their reading ability, encouraging them to become more proficient. The tech is 'smart' - identifying which words children are struggling with and helping them practice. Data from the app is shared with educators and parents to help improve the overall learning experience and a number of schools currently partner with the app and have adapted it for the classroom.
Judges at the techies awards were impressed by the uniqueness of Yap Books’ proposition and by its rapid uptake - signing up 70,000 users in just three months.
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The app was initially developed as a speech development tool for founder Benjamin Ridgway’s son, Noah, who remains one of the most trusted Yap Books reviewers. The app can also be tailored specifically towards children with dyslexia, dyspraxia and speech development problems, another feature that impressed judges.
“The app is designed to create a more immersive and memorable reading experience, providing children with books that are perfectly in time with their words and imagination,” says brand marketing manager Lee Johnson.
The app was under development for two years before launch. “Our main focus was to provide a user interface that was simplistic and child friendly. We wanted something that was intuitive and took only seconds to navigate and master,” says Johnson.
This resulted in the clean and colourful design showcased in the end product. Time was also taken to develop an app that took into account different accents, dialects and habits of speech and create a range of books that cater to a wider range of ages and reading abilities.
“We understand how successful and popular video content platforms are becoming with children of this era,” says Johnson, referring to the fact that as of April 2019, 12 out of 20 of YouTube’s most popular videos were for children, including that undisputed anthem ‘The Boo Boo Song’ which has clocked up a stratospheric 226,198,404 views.
“No other competitor is doing anything like this and Yap Books is the first to utilise voice technology and introduce a new pathway in the way we learn,” says Johnson, noting that Yap Books demonstrates a leap forward in literary assessment “by utilising voice technology to listen to each child read and then generate an individualised data analysis”.
Yap Books won the Best App award at the techies 2019.