Design Conjecture: Science and Technology

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Book Buddy by Lauren Hoffman

Early childhood educators have expressed the challenges associated with having older adults read to kids. In order to read to preschoolers in a developmentally beneficial way, older adults must learn best practices like asking reinforcing questions about the story line or asking about character’s emotions.

Book Buddy is an electronic toy that addresses this need by teaching grandparents, older adults, or siblings how to read to children properly. Guided content in children’s books are paired with a stuffed buddy that responds to the reading. Book Buddy uses technology from the Amazon Echo to listen to the adult reading the book. It recognizes which book is being read, and begins to respond to the story and questions prompted by the adult. Book Buddy will respond with light, sound, heat, and vibration to be a sensorially engaging experience. For example, when Buddy is sad in the book, the toy may change color, make sad noises, and feel cool. Then, the reader can prompt the preschooler- how do you think Buddy feels right now? Why does Buddy feel that way?

This product lowers the barrier to meaningful intergenerational reading. Book Buddy serves as an intergenerational mediator, teaching older adults how to productively read to children and providing a developmentally rich experience for children.