Children’s Reading On Screen: RSA Catalyst Grant for Manchester Metropolitan University

This article is reposted from The RSA website to increase reach. Written by: Natalia Kucirkova FRSA

Sharing books with young children is known to be one of the most enriching and educationally beneficial activities that parents can do with their young children at home.

Shared book reading is typically associated with a parent and child sitting down snuggled together with a printed book. However, increasingly, printed books are being replaced with digital books downloaded on a reading device such as a tablet or Kindle, and in many families a quiet bedtime reading routine is becoming more akin to watching TV or playing a video game.

Research shows that the reading format can significantly change the parent-child dynamics, with children being more distracted and subsequently learning less with the digital books rather than printed books. On the other hand, the digital format offers new exciting possibilities for drawing children’s attention to texts and parent-child bonding.

There are many factors at play here; some of these are new to the digital format, some of these are the same as when reading printed books. For any reading format, the quality of the text as well as the need for language support parents can provide, are key. Conversely, some features are only possible with the digital format- such as, the possibility to audio-record some text passages or reading the same book with relatives via skype.

Our project

We want to make sure that parents, caregivers, educators and practitioners have access to the latest research evidence and develop a tool to share some inspirational practices. These efforts build on previous work and available resources in this area. Namely, the National Literacy Trust developed the digital evaluation tool “Literacy Apps” which showcases high-quality digital books and reading/writing apps for children. It also builds on the panel discussion at RSA in February 2016, which brought together insights from children’s publishers, researchers, digital producers and UK’s leading literacy charities.

The £2k RSA Catalyst Funding will help us create an engaging video resource for parents and educators and to hold focus groups with parents and teachers local to Manchester. The project is also supported by EdLab – an education lab at Manchester Metropolitan University that encourages MMU students to actively participate in the local community and engage in the design and delivery of educational projects.

Getting involved

If you are based in Manchester, please consider participating at our local event where we will want to showcase some case studies. Further details will be shared at the RSA Manchester Meetup on 31 October; if you’re unable to attend the meetup, please contact me, Natalia Kucirkova FRSA: for more information.

If there is a specific resource, personal experience, perspective or research study you would like us to consider as we put this resource together, please get in touch or share your views with other readers in the comment box below by the end of December 2016.

We look forward to hearing from you!

EdLab Challenge: Support an Artistic Workshop involving Robot Making

Student mentors required for an exciting two-day workshop with Manchester School of Art.

Workshop Description: For this workshop, participants will be challenged to write and perform short sci-fi dramas featuring their very own prototype robots. They will invent and perform a dystopian future for Stockport whilst exploring Arduino physical computing. This workshop is aimed at 11-16 year olds.


This opportunity would be ideal for:

  • Those with an interest in pursuing a career within arts education or education
  • Those interested in working directly with young people
  • Someone with an interest in technology and design

Dates & Times

The workshops will be held on:
Tuesday 25th October & Wednesday 26th October.
09:00am – 4:00pm.
You will also need to attend a training day. Date and time TBC.

More information: To get involved in this project, or to work on a challenge which supports the development of this project, contact

t.bowman@ or  edlab

Partner Name: Manchester School of Art,
Keywords: play based learning, robots, design, craft, hands on, experiential learning, Seymour Papert,

EdLab Challenge – Deploy StarLab

EdLab MMU invite you to get involved in StarLab. Your challenge is to use StarLab as a stimulus for learning experiences to be delivered to children between 0-5 in a local Reggio Emilia nursery.


This will involve:

  • Develop a range of ideas for using StarLab in interdisciplinary and age appropriate ways
  • Work as a team to select identify a smaller number of the best ideas for deployment
  • Plan and resource a day of activity for various cohorts in Alexandra Park Children’s Learning Community
  • Deliver and evaluate the day
  • Communicate the project at the 3rd December conference

More information: To get involved in this project, or to work on a challenge which supports the development of this project, contact  edlab

Partner Name: StarLab MMU
Keywords: astronomy, Creativity, playful approach, story spaces

EdLab Challenge: Support a digital story trail for a Homeless charity

EdLab MMU and Community Arts North West are working with Petrus Homeless project to support the Hidden Rochdale project, a highly interactive digital trail that will tell the hidden stories of Petrus homeless service-users. Their goal is to take the audience on a provocative and highly engaging journey through Rochdale to uncover digital artifacts that will be concealed in the landscape.


Developed by the Petrus Community working in partnership with Community Arts North West, the project uses writing, spoken word, music, video, animation and mobile technologies, and will culminate in an interactive digital trail that will take the audience on an engaging and creative journey through Rochdale town-centre in 2017.

On 20th October 2016 a trailblazer event is taking place at Rochdale Festival of Literature and Ideas, showcasing an eclectic mix of short films and spoken word.

We are looking for students who would be interested in:

  1.  Creating a short trail around Rochdale using ‘Action Bound’ and demonstrating how it works at the event on 20th October
  2. Coming up with ideas to help us evaluate how the project is going so far with the Petrus service users, staff, volunteers and artists on Tuesday 25th October
  3. Becoming Digital Mentors for the project in 2017 (January to June)

More information: To get involved in this project, or to work on a challenge which supports the development of this project, contact m.peace or edlab

Partner Name:Community Arts NorthWest., Petrus Homeless Project
Keywords: Story trails, community art, Creativity, playful approach, digital skills

EdLab Pupils review Science Books for the Royal Society

Year 5 pupils from Rolls Crescent working with EdLab were asked by the Royal Society to review six children’s science books. Working in pairs pupils took the books home in order to give them an in-depth examination, and then returned for a group review led by our science communication lecturer Dr Sam Illingworth.

The children enjoyed the challenge, and debated enthusiastically to come up with a final winner. Across the four judging categories David Macaulay’s ‘How Machines work’ came out top. This children enjoyed its interactive nature, and the way in which the science was communicated through the story.

For more information, and details of all the books go to the Royal Society’s website:


“Brave Ideas”: Facilitating Year 9 Girls Tinkering with Code Bugs

As a result of an earlier project aimed at widening the participation of girls in science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM) subjects EdLab facilitated a follow up tinkering session at Whalley Range High School with Year 9 girls. To do this we took along mini codable LED devices called Code Bugs, and engaged the girls in a 90 minute competition to create an interactive page from a children’s book.

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Junk Percussion workshop by Andrea Vogler

Join Northern Chamber Orchestra’s percussionist Andrea Vogler for a participatory session composing and performing music using an exciting array of junk percussion instruments.




This workshop is supported by EdLab as part of the 2016 Brooks Community Learning Festival.

To attend go to this link and register – Remember to choose the right day

Community Event – 26-7-2016 – Robot Orchestra Making with Noisy Toys

Help build the Mechanised String Section for Manchester’s Robot Orchestra. This will involve several different skills:


  • DIY/woodwork skills to attach the mini machines and string instruments onto a large frame · Electrical and audio installation to connect relays and contact microphones
  • Programing so that we can control the different instruments to start and stop at different times via Arduino.
  • Musical skills so that we can tune the stringed instruments to different keys and structure the sequence to fit in with a musical score written by the Hale Orchestra


This workshop is supported by EdLab as part of the 2016 Brooks Community Learning Festival.

To attend go to this link and register – Remember to choose the right day

Community Event – 28-7-16 – Pond Dipping with Manchester Met’s Environment Team

Manchester Met’s Environment Team and student ambassadors deliver Pond Dipping!
Experience the natural environment right in the centre of Hulme by pond dipping in the wetland area. Drop by and learn about the creatures that live in the water, and have the opportunity to identify and explore the wildlife and plants in this area.

*Nominated adult carers are required to accompany children during this activity- suitable for ages 6 plus*


This workshop is  part of the Community Learning Festival at Brooks MMU Hulme taking place from the 26-28th July 2016.
To attend go to this link and register – Remember to choose the right day

Community Event – 28-7-16 – Tony Curry writing and rap workshops

In this workshop for Children and Young people Tony Curry helps guide us to do some writing and rapping on the theme of environment and sustainability.




This workshop is part of the Community Learning Festival at Brooks MMU Hulme taking place from the 26-28th July 2016
To attend go to this link and register – Remember to choose the right day


EdLab Challenge: Support an activity at The Place Fallowfield

The Place in Fallowfield is a multi use learning centre incorporating Fallowfield library. There are courses offered by the WEA and it is supported by local housing provider One Manchester. It is an inspiring example of the community and local businesses coming together to save a great local resource from the cuts. The Place is home to some larger events which showcase different opportunities available. One example of this is an upcoming event on apprenticeships in January.


When people arrive at education events they may be nervous. They may not have had the best time at school or other education. They may lack confidence in seeking out new opportunities.

Can you design an activity that can happen to support other events. Your mission is to help people gain confidence about learning and make a link to what they have already done. It might be full of familiar and friendly things and allow them to get involved in a fun way. At the end of visiting your stall, they should come away feeling positive about what they already know and ready to learn more.

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All Welcome at the Community Learning Festival 26 – 28 July 2016

The Community Learning Festival is an exciting and free event happening at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Brooks building on Tuesday, 26 July – Thursday, 28 July 2016. You can book tickets and find a full programme of events for the Community Learning Festival here:

The festival is a celebration of the diversity of learning happening in the local area. It’s a chance for community learning providers and University projects to come together and enjoy the facilities at the Brooks building for a series of lively and interesting events.


The festival will have a range of activities, workshops, walks and talks over the three days. Each day features workshops on themes like democracy, care, community and the environment. Most importantly, there is always something going on for all ages and interests.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Music, rap and spoken word sessions
  • Art and textiles workshops mixing creative craft and technology
  • Creative walks and digital story trails
  • Debates and discussions on local and global issues
  • Manchester Robot Orchestra and Junk Percussion workshops
  • Talks and films on civic action and social justice

The Festival has been organised by the Manchester Met Faculty of Education in association with community partners including Louise Da-Cocodia Education Trust, Hideaway and Hulme Community Garden Centre.

Help us promote the Festival. Images and Workshops highlights to share with your networks via email and social media are available on the EdLab website:


EdLab Project: Support Mixed-Race Primary School Children

Mix-d is an organisation which works with young people who are mixed race to give voice to this underrepresented group. Mix-d have worked with this group over a number of years to hear and understand the perspectives of mixed-race young people, and as a result have created a number of packs to support professionals in working with these young people.


Mix-d have offered to work with EdLab students to create a professionals pack to support primary school teachers working with mixed-race children. This pack would be the first of its kind in the UK, and could help teachers to work with mixed-race children in a positive manner which helps to develop a strong and positive sense of identity.

More Information: 

To get involved in this project, or to work on a challenge which supports the development of this project, contact or

Key Partner: Mix-d

Key Words: Primary, Race, Mixed-Race, Educational Packs, Identity Formation, Social Enterprise, Social Justice

EdLab Project: Conduct a Consultation with LGBT Youth on Virtual Community groups

The Proud Trust supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people in the UK. In 2013 Manchester’s LGBT youth group said there was a ‘gap’ in how they get and need support. The Proud Trust would therefore like to understand how a virtual community group could support young LGBT people and fill this gap for those feeling isolated from services.


Research demonstrates the persistent disadvantage towards LGBT youth for example,within education due to homophobic bullying. Therefore, a virtual community group may do something to alleviate these issues for young people in education, and The Proud Trust would like students to investigate the potential.


More Information:

If you would like to create and deliver a consultation on the use of a virtual community group for LGBT young people please contact or

Partner Name: The Proud Trust –

Keywords: LGBT, online community group, support

Community Event – 27-7-2016 – Wordsmith Spoken Word Workshop

Are you an aspiring young poet, writer or MC? Do you feel like you have something to say? This workshop will help you find your voice, respond to the issues of the day and give guidance on writing and performance.



This workshop is supported by EdLab as part of the Community Learning Festival at Brooks MMU Hulme taking place from the 26-28th July 2016
To attend go to this link and register – Remember to choose the right day