Bringing children into the literacy fold

Kids’ Own Publishing have developed an app which aims to engage children with literacy, reading and storytelling, as well as being a lot of fun.

In a world where children are mesmerised by screens, and libraries are becoming bare, a long established publishing company have devised a way of bringing the two worlds together.

Victoria Ryle, Exectutive Director of Kids' Own Publishing with some junior authors.
Victoria Ryle, Exectutive Director of Kids’ Own Publishing with some junior authors.

Melbourne based Victoria Ryle and Simon Spain have released WePublish, which has recently reached the top of Apple’s best new apps list.

The digital publishing app was the brainchild of the couple who have been publishing books for children by children since the 1990s.

“We got fed up with applying for grants and having people say That’s all very well but where’s the E-Book? All of our books exist in digital form but children need the tangible object in their hands,” Ryle said.

“We developed the digital form but we needed something really easy so people could keep publishing and keep on seeing they could make their own books; something really accessible.”

So WePublish was born, which is an interactive application available on the iPad, where children can make a book with their own words, pictures and photos, then print it.

“It takes what we’ve always done, which is the eight page origami fold most teachers would be familiar with, which folds up into a little eight page book,” Ryle said.

A book made by kids for kids.
A book made by kids for kids.

“We wanted the children to think creatively. We wanted them to use their eyes and capture textures from their own environment, so if you’re an Aboriginal child in a remote community, you can take pictures from your own environment, use your textures, your landscape, everything in your life and use that as your palette to create your book.”

Ryle and Spain are originally from London, where they first started publishing books by children, for children. They then took the business to Ireland before finally settling in Melbourne.

The WePublish app at work in the classroom.
The WePublish app at work in the classroom.

Originally a teacher, Ryle understands the benefits of literacy and creative thinking in the community and uses publishing to help children and parents engage with reading.

“I cut my teaching teeth on the whole language movement like Don Holdaway, Marie Clay and the importance of learning from children, listening to children’s stories, integrating oracy, reading and writing into a process that was holistic and made sense to children, and enabled them to draw on their identity, experience and culture,” she said.

“And I loved that. So in those early days I used to make books in my classroom with the children. My husband is a print maker and artist and he said if we printed editions of books, that would multiply the benefit in that every kid would get to take a book home. We realised that it had a huge impact on children when they own the tangible finished book.”

Making a book on WePublish is quick, easy and fun.
Making a book on WePublish is quick, easy and fun.

Now, Kids’ Own Publishing run projects and workshops in the community, helping to improve literacy and engagement with reading, as well as bridging the gap between communities.

The benefits of the projects and the app are varied and many, particularly with a generation of children who are technically savvy, yet enjoy the process of creating something tangible.

“The benefits when you embed the literacy activity of making a book and publishing it, and the social activity of nurturing the child to become a writer, a reader and become part of the world of books are vast,” Ryle said.

“We noticed that when children were able to see themselves in a book with words, pictures and photos, they were very proud to share that with their family and that provided multiple reading engagements. It also provided the possibility of the books going further out into the community and the further they spread, the more sense of pride the children had and that strengthened them as learners.”

WePublish is easy to use and accessible to just about anyone. The steps to make a book and then print it are simple and enjoyable.

"When children put themselves in a book... they are proud to share that with their family."
“When children put themselves in a book… they are proud to share that with their family.”

“Over the years we’ve developed a wide repertoire of approaches to publishing with the community and one of our main concerns is to build the capacity of the parents, the students and the community,” Ryle said.

The app aims to engage and reengage youths with reading, writing and creating and is a fun way of bringing children into a book, improving their skills in digital literacy also.

You can buy the app from Apple’s App Store.

Find out more about Kids’ Own Publishing and their projects at their website.

Story by Libby Parker

Pictures from Kids’ Own Publishing Website