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Personalisation project on children's books awarded ESRC Future Leaders grant

12 December 2016

Natalia Kucirkova with children

Dr Natalia Kucirkova has been awarded an ESRC Future Leaders grant for her project on personalisation within children's digital books. The awarding of this grant is a very strong achievement; in 2015-16, only 9% of bids for all Education grant types were successful.

Dr Kucirkova will start working on the project in the UCL Institute of Education's (IOE) Department for Learning and Leadership on 1 January 2017. Dr Rosie Flewitt, who co-wrote the bid, will act as Natalia's mentor for the duration of the project. Before joining the IOE, Dr Kucirkova was Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

The project will look at specific features of children's digital books, with a focus on personalisation. As Dr Kucirkova writes in an article for The Bookseller earlier this year, personalised services are becoming increasingly popular. In children's literature, personalised digital books and apps can allow children to determine different story endings and add their own pictures and audio-recordings.

Dr Kucirkova explains in the Huffington Post:
"Since the advent of children's books, the purpose has been to challenge children's thinking with ideas they may have not come across or engaged with before and transport them in the secondary world of imagination. Personalised books turn this model on its head: Julie gets a book made for Julie, Jack a book for Jack."

Dr Kucirkova argues that personalisation adds a layer of playfulness, authenticity and immediacy to a story and can be a great way to engage both children and caregivers in the process of shared book reading. At the same time, it is important to avoid overly self-centred experiences and 'combine personalisation with shared educational experiences and apply it in small and careful doses'.

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  • Dr Kucirkova using iPads with children