Jenny Drezin
Jenny Drezin

Israeli tech turns screen time into reading time

Credit: Inception XR

Corona lockdowns have not been easy on anyone. But parents of young kids experienced a double whammy, figuring out personal and professional coping strategies while simultaneously caring for–and oftentimes schooling–their own kids. No matter how strict their rules were before Corona, I don’t know of any parent who succeeded in enforcing screen time limits in any reasonable way. 

Screen time is one of the most touchy parenting subjects, fueling divisions between the laissez faire amongst us–who turn a blind eye to how their kids spend their free time–to the most ardent helicopter moms and dads. 

But what if you could hand your kindergarten or elementary school aged kid an iPad and not feel guilty about it? What if you could turn screen time from mindless video games into a tool to encourage kids to read more and actually increase their engagement in books? 

Sounds impossible? Tel Aviv based Inception XR, the makers of the Bookful App, are on a journey to do just that. 

Making Screen Time Educational 

The average child spends 7.5 hours per day on a screen for leisure purposes–not counting educational screen time for homework or other learning activities. It’s safe to say that the majority of that time is spent on mindless pursuits, from addictive games to mindless videos. 

The rise of Covid-19 only magnified those figures with ever increasing use of screens for school, socializing, gaming and other daily activities dubbed “the Corona effect”. In fact, according to a report by Bezeq, Israelis spent 12 hours a day in front of a screen at the height of the pandemic.

But Covid also changed the stance of many guilt ridden parents. Recently, researchers and physicians have begun promoting more nuanced views of screen time, emphasizing the importance of quality over quantity.

As parents ourselves, we acknowledge that screens are here to stay. Trying to limit kids’ usage can feel like Sisyphus rolling the rock up a hill–no matter how hard we try, the rock always rolls back down, often crashing into us on the way. 

So rather than fighting unwinnable battles, our strategy is simple: Make screen time more educational. Bookful, our flagship mobile app, encourages kids to read by combining the sophistication of apps and games kids are used to with the literary and developmental benefits parents want. We do this by enriching books with 3D graphics and augmented reality, technology that invites digital characters into kids’ own living rooms. 

Bookful is not meant to replace physical books: Rather, like the rise of digital and audio books it is meant to give kids more reading options. And the app has shown positive learning outcomes, with kids reading more than 17-20 books a month on average on the platform. 

Credit: Inception XR

Unexpected Benefits 

Bringing books “alive” in this way has had unexpected benefits: We are gratified to find the app helping struggling young readers and special needs kids. Children’s therapists tell us how the app helped autistic patients “role play” interpersonal communications by interacting with book characters. Parents of new readers explain how the technology held the attention of kids with ADD.

Perhaps we should not be so surprised–if you think about it screens have long served educational purposes. In Israel circa 1980s, the simple TV set was a window to other cultures: The one or two available channels helped Israeli kids taste American culture and “surround” themselves with English speakers–without buying a ticket abroad. Scores of Israelis credit American TV with their ability to speak in fluent, non-accented English. 

Our dream is that years from now, scores of young adults will come back and tell us how the app ignited in them a passion for reading that they carry with them until today. 

About the Author
Jenny is currently a VP at Inception XR, whose mission is to transform reading through mixed reality. She spent many years in the startup space, as founder of Dzomo, an image generation platform for content creators and co-founder and CMO of Sidekix Urban Discovery. Jenny has written for such outlets as Fast Co., the Huffington Post, the Economist and more.
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