Interviewing Leyla Vahedi_fieldwork in Rome

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April and May 2019 are full of interviews, fieldwork and workshops for the Storytellers Project! The work, travel and contribution to collaborators are funded by Designscapes grant.

In Rome I had the chance to meet Leyla Vahedi from Association Cartastraccia. We met at the European Library of Rome, which I thank again for hosting me and the research. Leyla is a real expert of children literature, reading to children and digital books. We had a conversation about reading to children and the books that engage children best. She is also experimenting a lot on -what she calls- “book app” with her fellow association colleagues. Leyla stressed the fact that the book as a physical object is really key to the relationship that one reader builds with the child because of the material, the rhythm of turning pages, the possibility to point with fingers, the fact that it is a shared object.

Leyla has a great literature culture and was a real pleasure to meet her and learn from her.

Co-creation workshops in Leiden _Join us!

Everything is almost ready for the upcoming co-creation workshops at the BplusC library in Leiden, in my beloved Netherlands, where I will run two sessions, one with readers and one with parents in order to collect feedback from them as potential users of the Storytellers concept.

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The aim of these workshops is to develop the concept forward through the insights I will get from the participants thanks to interviews and hands-on activities we will do during the sessions.

The date is Wednesday april 17th, and the sessions will be one hour and a half each:

> 2-3.30 pm with readers

> 4- 5.30 pm with parents

The workshops is funded by Designscapes - EU project, within the Feasibility Study grant that The Storytellers Project has recently been awarded.


Looking forward to coming to Leiden!

Storybell baking in the 3d printer

While I write, the very first 3d printed, rough and not-robotic prototype, of the Storybell is being printed at the Castelfranco Veneto FabLab. I will use it to run the first co-creation and experience prototyping sessions with parents and children in the next month.

The Castelfranco Veneto FabLab has been sponsoring the Storytellers project through know-how since the beginning and now eventually with prototypes making. Many thanks!

Storytellers is a DESIGNSCAPES winner!

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I am super excited to announce that The Storytellers Project ranked as one of the winners of the Designscapes call for feasibility study. This means that the project is receiving a grant that will allow me to conduct a feasibility study and to meet perspective partners to develop the project with.

DESIGNSCAPES (Building Capacity for Design enabled Innovation in Urban Environments) is a European Community H2020 project approved under the topic CO-CREATION-02-2016 - User-driven innovation: value creation through design-enabled innovation. The overarching aim of the DESIGNSCAPES project is to exploit the generative potential of urban environments in the highest possible number of European Cities to encourage the uptake and further enhancement and up scaling of Design enabled Innovations by existing enterprises, start-up companies, public authorities and agencies, and other urban stakeholders.

3 Tutorial di lettura ai bambini / 3 tutorials about reading to children

[Please, for English see below in italics. Thank you!]

Negli ultimi mesi del 2018 ho reclutato il primo gruppo di lettori (Storytellers) in diverse regioni italiane, i quali partecipano al primo ciclo di experience prototyping e co-creazione del progetto Storytellers. A loro sono stati recapitati alcuni libri per l’infanzia che ho selezionato per la fascia di età 3-6 anni, ovvero bambini in età prescolare che non sanno ancora leggere. L’acquisto dei libri è stato gentilmente finanziato dalla compagnia Storytel, come già descritto nel post precedente.

Per preparare i 5 lettori ad approcciare i bambini e leggere loro le storie via telefono, ho creato 3 video tutorial grazie al preziosissimo ed indispensabile aiuto della mia amica ed attrice romana Arianna Saturni. I 3 video tutorial si concentrano su 3 testi per l’infanzia molto diversi tra loro: un albo illustrato dalle grandi immagini e poco testo, una storia ad episodi con domande-risposte, una fiaba di Rodari senza immagini e con molto testo. Ciascun tutorial che Arianna ha curato inizia con una descrizione del testo e poi procede con un esempio di lettura.

Allora forza Storytellers! Vedete i video tutorial, prendete i vostri libri ed iniziate ad esercitarvi :)

Nel frattempo io recluto mamme e bambini che presto potranno telefonarvi per ascoltare le vostre letture!

— — — in English

In the last months of 2018 I have been recruiting the first crew of Storytellers in different Italian regions, who are participating the first round of experience prototyping and co-creation of the Storytellers project. They have been delivered several children books which I have selected for pre-school children, 3-6 y.o. Thanks again to Storytel to fund the purchase of those books (I talked about their sponsorship in the previous post).

In order to provide the recruited Storytellers with an initial training in reading to children, I made 3 video tutorials together with the precious friend and actress Arianna Saturni. The 3 video tutorials focus on 3 different children texts: a picture book with big illustrations and small amount of text, an episodes story in the structure of question-answer dialogue, and a story from Rodari without images and with lots of text. Each tutorial begins with a text description and then follows with a reading example.

Time to watch the tutorials, grab your books and practise some reading exercise, Storytellers!

In the meanwhile I am recruiting mothers and children who soon will be able to phone you to listen to your readings!

Thank you Storytel!

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I came across Storytel almost one year ago while researching possible sponsors. Storytel is an online audiobook streaming service created in Sweden and now spreading worldwide that utilizes a digital subscription service to grant its users access to an immense library of audiobooks through collaborations with large publishers. Following my “reach out and show the project” attitude, I contacted Marco Ferrario, Italian Country Manager, through Linkedn and he was really kind in answering me, a perfect unknown person, and reacting to The Storytellers project. We had an exchange of emails, where he generously offered me his feedback. We didn’t manage to meet in Bologna, at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018, so I still haven’t shaken hands with him.

Anyway, recently I contacted Marco again, explaining that Storytellers was going to be co-created in an analogous setting and that I was looking for fundings to buy books for recruited storytellers and some hardware to build my props and storybell prototype. Marco was again very kind and agreed to fund the books for the storytellers.

Thanks Marco and Storytel:)

Happy to having you supporting The Storytellers Project!

Reading and listening: how to support the remote encounter?

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Recently I asked this question to my friend and actress Arianna Saturni, from Rome, Italy. Arianna is one of the founders of the cultural and theatrical association Sovragaudio.

We had a nice conversation reflecting together on how to read a story on the phone, how to support an un-expert reader, how to favour the concentration of the child. She came up with several interesting considerations that I report here below.

Luckily, Arianna decided to continue following the project and to collaborate with me as an expert. In the following week, I will involve Arianna in co-creation sessions aiming to find new ways to support the readers and the listeners. I already see lots of possible activities to do together with Arianna, Grith (the illustrator) and Francesco (the writer)!

Arianna also agreed in producing with me the training videos for the Storytellers since the analogue experience prototyping happening in the next week.

Thank you Arianna, happy to have you on board!!!

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FIRST INSIGHTS FROM THE CONVERSATION WITH ARIANNA

Typography to help the reader

Typographic sings can help the reader, but too many may trap her/his reading. Like if it was a bit a music score.

Idea: To start a new line may be a good way to signal to read that line all in one breadth.

Words to support the concentration of the child

Just listening and focusing on the meaning of the words is much harder than looking at a book while somebody is reading it. Moreover, the reader voice is mediated by a second media (phone, robot). Long descriptions generally won’t work well. Reading should be slow.

Idea: Words used in the story should be simple, powerful and evocative.

Projected images to support the engagement of the child

The images should not be in conflict with the story being read. Images should come a bit later than the word: first the child imagine by herself/himself and then see the illustration (which is just one way of imagine it, the illustrator’s way) .

Ideas: In descriptions, the images should be rich of details so that the child can focus in finding them while listening, encouraging an active participation of the child.

Images should contribute to set the mood, like scenography, like in graphic novels where you have very few words.

Images should be from the point of view of the protagonist (like in the wonderful book & app “A bear called Mur”).

Printed images inside the book to support an engaging reading

Images seen by the reader should highlight important steps in the narrative, should signal story nodes so that the reader gets aware of the importance of the particular words she/he is about to read. The reader and the child should follow the same visual narration.

Idea: When Red Riding Hood sees for the first time the wolf, the only picture we should see in the foreground would be the wolf eyes.

The power of tweaking a word [Fieldwork]

Courtesy of Gioia Onorati photographer

Courtesy of Gioia Onorati photographer

The last month I have been pretty active with interviews. I managed to talk to mom Gioia, who has two boys, 8 and 6 y.o. They both can read and write and since they were little ones, they loved to be read by their mom.

Gioia told me that they loved to be read the same story thousands of times. Usually she would sit on a particular chair where she had a proper light for reading and she would read to them. they have their favourite space for reading and being read at home. The stories they read are not long and they agree on which one to read before together.

Gioia said that reading books to children is the best way to explain difficult, abstract concepts to them.

She also told me that pictures are really important to get a part of the story impressed in the kids mind. So from time to time she turn the book towards them, so that they can see the picture. The picture can work as well as a bookmark, so if they do not end the story, they can follow the day after by starting from the very last picture they was together.

She had a nice anecdote: once by mistake she changed a word in the story of "The 3 little pigs" and from that a new story emerged! Now she uses to check if her children are paying attention by changing a word in important part of the story: if they realize that, they are really paying attention. This leads me to the following insight:

An entire new story can be originated by only changing a word. Words can act as a steering wheel for the storytelling.
— Mom Gioia

She also told me that the reading is a very important moment in the day: its her moment with the children to close the day. 

Gioia is a photographer and a very visual person. She thinks that illustrations, not photos, are better understood by children because they are not so realistic.

She loves to interpret the stories she reads by modulating her voice to deliver characters' emotions to her children.