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Digital is everywhere, and it’s even changing the way we read our books. Scottish Book Trust's Bookbug programme is embracing digital by developing a new app to help share stories, songs and rhymes with Scotland's children.

The Scottish Book Trust logoThis article is a guest blog post by Ruth Grindley, Early Years Digital Projects Manager at Scottish Book Trust.


Digital is everywhere, and it’s changing the way we live our lives, interact with our family, and even read our books. According to a recent Ofcom report, family ownership of touchscreens increased from just 7% in 2011, to 71% in 2014, and it’s now estimated that 99.7% of families have at least one touchscreen in their home.

The world of digital can be confusing, and the information available to parents and carers is often conflicting. The supposed negative impact of ‘screen time’ is widely reported in the press, with the media frequently referring to digital addiction and shortened attention spans. Despite this, 74% of parents strongly agree or agree that it is important for their child to learn to use technology from an early age to get on at school (according to National Literacy Trust survey).

Our Bookbug app could be the first technology some families use to share stories, songs and rhymes together

Over the past few years the publishing industry has undergone huge changes as a result of the impact of digital advances in technology. This hasn’t necessarily impacted upon printed children’s book sales which have soared over the past few years, and increased by over 11% in 2016 (the biggest increase in over a decade).

However, e-books for children haven’t really taken off in this new digital age. Tom Bonnick, Digital Manager at Nosy Crow, reported that percentage growth in e-book sales for children is ‘in very tiny numbers’, and he’s uncertain that it will take off any time soon. Part of the problem is that developing apps for children is costly, and not many publishers are willing to take the risk. If we want to encourage families to have quality interaction around technology, then we need to make sure quality digital content is available to help share reading, songs and rhymes on screens.

With this in mind, we decided to develop a new digital strand to the Bookbug programme to help provide all families, no matter their circumstances, with the opportunity to become more digitally confident and share elements of our programme more widely.

After an initial research and consultation phase, we have appointed children’s media agency Dubit to develop the app. Dubit, as well as building and launching their own digital products for children and parents, specialise in children’s media research. They were a key player in the production of the Technology and Play (TAP) report which examined pre-school children’s use of apps and identified the ways that apps used by pre-schoolers can foster play and creativity.

Dubit’s research and user-led approach is hugely important to us at Bookbug. While we believe digital technology has a role to play in literacy and language development, it shouldn’t be seen as a direct replacement for books. We want to make sure our Bookbug community are able to use both confidently. In January 2019 we hope to launch a free Bookbug app that can be downloaded by families and practitioners to use alongside the books and other resources gifted through the Bookbug programme.

The next ten months will be an extremely exciting time for the Bookbug Digital project. We will be asking our audience and future users to consult and help us test the app so we can produce a digital product that helps Scottish families and Bookbug practitioners to engage with and access the Bookbug programme in a meaningful way. While we sometimes hear that the books gifted in the Bookbug Bags are the first a child owns, we hope that we can have a similar influence in the digital world. Our Bookbug app could be the first technology some families use to share stories, songs and rhymes together, and prepare them for a positive future in our ever-changing world.

Published with thanks to Ruth Grindley and Scottish Book Trust. If you would like more information or would like to be involved in the testing or research for the Bookbug app, please contact ruth.grindley@scottishbooktrust.com

Main image credit: Stand With Malala @ ICT Discovery by ITU Pictures (CC BY 2.0) Image brightened and cropped from the original.