The Tech that is helping us to read
Depending on who you ask, we’re falling out of love with printed books, or we can’t get enough of them. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that our free time is being fought over by apps, TV screens or work emails.
The publisher’s association reported that consumers are still strongly attached to the printed word and book sales are indeed booming. Yet, as apps and films promise us more immersive experiences (think Netflix’ Bandersnatch), it’s not surprising that entrepreneurs are starting to look at books in the same way. Theoretically, a book should be able to hook you with the story alone.
As well as improving day to day reading, tech can also be used to develop reading ability, especially among children and adults with learning disabilities. When we’re reading, we need to draw on a multitude of skills. We must make connections, understand words, create mental pictures and know how to link subjects. It can take some people longer than others to do this, which is where tools and tech can come in.
Lexplore has developed AI eye-tracking software which assesses a child’s reading ability and provides the results in just a few minutes. The purpose of the software is to save hours of the teacher’s time by suggesting what the reading issue is and helping to analyse whether it’s dyslexia or just the child is struggling with a particular word.
Stephen Park at Lexplore explains how it works: “Eye-tracking technology automatically monitors the way the child’s eyes move as they read, registering how long the eyes rest on one word, and how quickly they move forwards or backwards across a series of words.
“Using AI technology, the software provides the results in a matter of minutes, allowing teachers to offer tailored support to address issues and opening up a world of books the child might not otherwise have experienced.”
Park gives an example of one primary school where the test showed how a Key Stage Two girl was finding reading difficult. “She had developed some really effective coping strategies to manage the difficulties she was experiencing so this was something teachers hadn’t spotted before. The pupil is very capable, so now teachers make sure she is given reading material with a high interest level, but a simpler text that she can follow more easily. The school can see whether the interventions they have put in place are making a difference by progress monitoring to see whether the percentile score has changed. In this case the school could see the interventions were working as they have seen the pupil progress from a ‘low’ banding, through to ‘average’ in the space of just seven months, and in that time she has also made a significant improvement in reading speed.”
Boosting reading at a time when our attention spans are being fought over is a good thing. It can complement our lives, and as Seim points out, his app often encourages people to buy the full book after reading an abbreviated version. Learning how to read again will help us to learn and also to switch off. Any tech that supports this, is worth a punt.