Making / Learning / Work was an adult learning innovation project hosted at the MIT Media Lab from September 2014 to May 2016. This site is an archive of the project documentation.

Bedtime stories for English learners of all ages.

Storyteller is a way for parents to practice speaking English by reading to their kids. When you open up the storyteller app, you are shown a gallery of recommended children’s books and you can choose what book to read to your child. The app knows your native language and you can read the text in English and your native language side-by-side (English on top, native language underneath). You can also listen to pages read aloud in English and practice to read to your kids. If you don’t understand a word, you can click on it and it give an image-rich explanation and translation. When you’re ready to read it to your kids, you can reference how English sounds (via listening to the spoken audio) and know what the text means by reading it in your native language.

Besides providing an opportunity for parents to practice their English, Storyteller can help facilitate more parent-child interaction and increase the time-per-day that children are exposed to reading, which is shown to help improve comprehension skills.

Storyteller is a mobile/iPad app, allowing parents to use it anywhere they want in the house. There would also need to be a web app for story creation, making it easy for contributors (such as art students) to create stories for the storybook “store”, complete with tutorials on how to make a good book for adult learners (stories with a lot of repetition, etc.).

In its most simple form, Storyteller is a compilation of existing children’s books. Down the road, authors and artists could get involved creating new books using a storybook-making web app. As a second phase, we could create an interface such that it is easy for a parent to create a book from pictures and then we could facilitate helping them create a story in English to read to their kids. This could become an integral part of the learning experience for the parent. In a third phase, we could build a community of parents that are using the Storyteller app in order to allow them to recommend stories to each other.

08/13/14 Update

Thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Parents should be able to go through “prep” exercises to practice reading and pronunciation.
  • The app needs to be accessible off-line.
  • A lending model model might help more people access devices that can run the storytelling app.

08/26/14 Update:

Thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Need to look into research about bilingual kids and parents reading out loud in English and/or their native languages
  • Keep in mind that increasing screen time for kids is not advised
  • Many kids love big colorful pictures and turning pages. Is there a way to replicate this?
  • Could Storyteller toggle in either direction? Parents might want to teach their native language to their predominantly English-speaking kids.