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Conference explores personalisation in children’s reading

5 October 2018

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) has hosted a conference exploring the intersection and tensions between automated personalisation and children’s own choices in fostering reading for pleasure.

Girl reading from a tablet

Organised by the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy (0-11 years) and the International Literacy Centre, the event brought academics and experts in children’s literacy together, as part of Dr Natalia Kucirkova’s project on ‘Personalised Stories’.

As part of the event, Professor Merideth Gattis (Cardiff University) delivered a keynote, highlighting several interventions that have been devised to target how parents read to their children. In particular, Professor Gattis talked about using book content as a context for rich parent-child conversation, asking: can personalised books promote abstract talk around the book?

Taking a different perspective, John Kent (Children’s Media Foundation) highlighted the role of personalisation in increasing children’s engagement in stories and games. He pointed out that since a good story and strong characters are key in driving children’s interest, a good story that is “personaliseable” provides a win-win situation. 

The keynote by Professor Teresa Cremin (The Open University) referred to the disconnect between adults’ personal reading practices and what she saw as the rather impersonal reading promoted in schools. Professor Cremin argued that since unmotivated and disaffected students fail to benefit from reading instruction, it is vital to shift the locus of control from teachers to choice-driven reading led by the child.

The final talk from Professor Catherine Snow (Harvard University), focused on the tension between child-led and teacher-led instruction and challenged the research community to develop resources and support the type of design and instruction that can walk the line between personalisation and community. She drove home the message that personal and group identity need not be in conflict.

The event was sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council and dedicated to Dr Lisa Procter, formerly of the Manchester Metropolitan University.

Read more about the event in a blog by Dr Natalia Kucirkova.

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