x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 December 2017

E-book takes children on a global ride

Two Dubai educators make learning fun with adventures of two youngsters, complete with video, pictures, maps and interactive features.

Christopher Batchelder, Mary Ames, Stacey White, Anna Batchelder and Eleonor White, 8. The Batchelders have developed a series of interactive e-books for children.
Christopher Batchelder, Mary Ames, Stacey White, Anna Batchelder and Eleonor White, 8. The Batchelders have developed a series of interactive e-books for children.

DUBAI // A couple from the emirate have launched the first in a series of interactive e-books they have developed for children.

The Adventures of BB and Sam series follows two young characters as they travel the globe learning important lessons about culture and values.

In their first adventure, BB and Sam: The Return of the Champion, the friends travel to Thailand where they meet a boxer and take in the sights and sounds of the community.

"We wanted to combine our passion for living in various countries, culture and education, and share it with children around the world," said Christopher Batchelder, the author and creative director of the series.

"It is also for those who cannot afford to travel. So we thought, 'Why not try to bring the countries to them?'"

Mr Batchelder and his wife Anna started Bon Education, a company that develops technology-based educational material and trains teachers in the UAE.

He said they travelled to Thailand to research and collect photos and video to include in the e-book last June, along with a team of other educators.

"We wanted to provide authentic stories so we toured and gathered information on the food, the people and culture," Mr Batchelder said. "Then we began developing a storyline."

Mrs Batchelder said the books were designed so parents could engage their children in reading at home through discussion questions and features they could explore together.

"Once we release a number of books in the series, the big vision is to develop a curriculum around the books for schools," she said.

Each of the 27 chapters opens with instrumental music and a summary. Geography lessons are made easier with interactive maps and photographs of the location.

The team asked children in the UAE, Egypt, New Zealand and North America for feedback on the content.

Eleonore White, 8, was one of the children who provided feedback.

"I told them they should add colour, like colour to BB, the big girl in the story," said Eleonore, of Dubai. "Also to match her bag and shoes."

Her mother, Stacy, said the story not only provided information, but also the values she wanted her children to grow up with.

"It talks about being caring, having principles, seeking knowledge and being open-minded," said Mrs White, who has lived in Dubai for four years.

Eleonore said she particularly liked the questions and answers at the end of chapters. "Also, the maps are really good."

Interactive e-books are particularly useful for those who have learning difficulties.

"My older son, now 18, has dyslexia and we could never get him to read books," said Mrs White. "He would have had a much better relationship with the language had this been available at the time."

Sue Murphy, a former teacher trainer in Abu Dhabi, also gave feedback and ensured the book was appropriate for children in Grades 3 to 5.

"Young readers love the idea they are in control of some parts of their own learning journey," Ms Murphy said. "One of the key components of building reading comprehension includes connecting new information to what you already know.

"The real video clips and supplemental information work well to do that. You can click on photos of the food to help understand Thai food better, which adds visual enhancement to the words on the printed page."

BB and Sam: The Return of the Champion can be downloaded as an application from iTunes for Dh33 and is compatible with any iPad that has iBooks 2.

Next week, Bon Education will launch a Kindle version of the book and plans are in place to adapt it for other e-reader platforms.

The next book in the series, which will take children on an adventure in the Middle East, is due out next year.

aahmed@thenational.ae