'Book bot' leads children back into libraries

A pilot program using technology to increase children's love of reading is proving a big hit with its target audience.

Image: Reading group: Stage 2 students at McCallums Hill Public School are embracing reading with the help of their friendly 'book bot'.

A robot that questions children about their interests and reading skills is helping create a new generation of bookworms.

McCallums Hill Public School in Sydney's south west is one of two primary schools in NSW to be selected to participate in a Department of Education program for grades 3-6 that aims to learn more about how often children read books and what they enjoy reading.

Teacher librarian Cathy Drury said the program uses a 'book bot' to help children to choose a book and would broaden the range of genres from which children read.

It would also help them choose their own books rather than seeking guidance from teachers.

"I was talking to a Stage 3 teacher who told me the book bot chose some books for one of the girls in her class and she said she had never seen the little girl read a book from cover to cover like that before," Ms Drury said.

"She absolutely loves the book. So, obviously the book bot chose correctly for her."

Not-for-profit organisation Dymocks Children's Charity is sponsoring the pilot, providing 300 new books from the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge to McCallums Hill Public's library and to the library at Wallsend Public School in Newcastle, which is also taking part in the pilot.

The 2020 Premier's Reading Challenge, which opened last week, encourages students from all education sectors to read for leisure and pleasure from a reading list of quality literature.

A record 405,565 NSW students took part in the 2019 challenge, up 5% on the previous year, and almost 8.7 million books were read.

The book bot was created by Australian company Wriveted to improve children's reading frequency by helping them find books they enjoyed.

The small robot's face displays questions the children answer, leading them to books that are appropriate for their reading level and interests.

McCallums Hill Public School principal Georgia Constanti said students who did not normally visit the library were coming in at lunchtime to use the bot and borrow books because it was fun.

"You would hope that, in the first instance, that would be the case but once they are getting good recommendations they will keep wanting to come back and use it," she said.

Students involved in the pilot will also keep a reading diary and Wriveted will use the comments to generate findings about overall reading enjoyment across each grade.

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