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Brigham Young Student Game Woos Kids to Reading

A group of students at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah recently took on a project for the Library of Congress to encourage kids to get off their digital devices and back into books. The solution: an online game.

The project was given to the Laycock Center, a division of BYU's College of Fine Arts & Communications. "The Library of Congress came to us with a problem," said Jeff Sheets, director of the center. "How do you get third to fifth graders to want to read? Well, we've lost them to the screen, so maybe the solution is we use the same technology that got them out of books to get them back into books."

According to campus coverage, the center called for help from students in multiple areas of study: illustration, animation, film, music, advertising and computer science. Over the course of two months, the participants designed the game, created the characters and produced three-dozen "mini scenes," each tied to a children's story.

"Readers to the Rescue" is an interactive storybook Web site that stars three blind mice; an angry bear and a loose-limbed scarecrow; Mother Goose; Pinocchio; Sleeping Beauty and plenty of other archetypal characters from children's literature. The story opens in a library that's just closed up. The only human occupant is a janitor who's too busy listening to music to notice that a dark-hooded creature has just stolen a book from the collection. As the villain is leaving the library, he drops the book. The heroes of the story jump out of their own books to investigate and find that their friends who used to live in the book have been kidnapped. Players work with the characters to help rescue the missing friends. As a reward, they get access to 36 books that can be read online for free.

"The feedback that we've gotten is that this is as professional a project as they've ever received," added Sheets. The Library of Congress has worked with "hundreds of outsourced creative agencies and producers of creative content, and this is right up there with everything they've gotten and, in some ways, the best they've ever gotten."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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