Кnigovishte (a word created by the Renaissance Bulgarian encyclopaedist Ivan Bogorov meaning library, which also sounds as Book Monster) aims to make reading an attractive, desired and shared pleasure for Bulgarian children.
The story behind Knigovishte started a year ago with Dessislava Gavrilova – a long-year founder and manager of projects and organizations in the field of culture. Dessy has been living in Vienna for several years, where her young son's school uses a digital platform to encourage reading from a very early age. As she saw the positive effect of the platform on her son, Dessy decided she wanted children, parents and teachers in Bulgaria to have a similar assistant in their efforts to raise passionate and knowledgeable readers. She shared her idea with Yana Genova and Iskra Djanabetska and got them excited about getting it started.
As a professional in the field of books, Yana has witnessed hundreds of initiatives to support reading in many countries. Iskra, in her turn, has an experience of over 10 years with projects in the field of education. In her work, she has communicated with children and youth from various social groups and has witnessed daily that children who read are the most successful ones, regardless of the field they want to develop in and regardless of the financial situation of their families. Reading can be a ladder to personal change – this is a lesson that has guided Dessy, Yana and Iskra in their parenting as well.
Together, the three of them decided to create a Bulgarian platform to encourage children and young adults in professing reading with comprehension. The platform is inspired by successful foreign models and is built with consideration for the educational context, the habits, and the inequalities existing among children in Bulgaria.
THE CHANGE they want to achieve:
Knigovishte is an educational internet platform reinforcing the kids' ability to comprehend the texts they read. Knigovishte is an online game of questions and answers on the books children read, reinforcing the pleasure of reading and creating a community. It is a reader's diary and a guide into the world of books.
Research has shown alarmingly high levels of functional illiteracy in Bulgaria. Two out of five Bulgarian teenagers are unable to understand the texts they read, to analyze the information and use it in a different context. Data are exceptionally concerning as they mean that many children cannot use the knowledge, they gain in schools in actual life situations, and could hardly achieve a successful career on the labour market after graduation.
Many parents are worried that one of the reasons behind the problem has to do with the fact that children spend too much time on their electronic devices; that they talk to their friends mostly about computer games, and that they don't read. Iskra, Yana and Dessy, however, think that the proper reaction is not to denounce new technologies, but to use them reasonably to help the children's development. The goal of Knigovishte is to give this opportunity to all parents.
The three of them believe that the way to encourage contemporary children to read is not to lecture or edify them, but to introduce reading in a more playful and enjoyable context. That is why Knigovishte is based on game approaches, particularly typical of computer games, which increase the children's willingness to participate. Having read a given book, the child is able to enter his/her individual Knigovishte profile and answer questions on that particular title that would show how well he/she has understood its content. Each correct answer brings points – the more sophisticated the books, the more points every answer brings. In Knigovishte, children are able to compete with the electronic device, with their classmates, with other readers of the same age. They can join various challenges and achieve higher levels. They can share their opinions about the books they have read and write their own questionnaires about their favourite books. They can compete for prizes by reading books.
Children find many of the books on the mandatory list in schools difficult to understand and they view reading as an obligation. However, many children read texts and books that speak the language of their everyday lives. The platform invites children to take part by answering quizzes about their favourite books – from fairytales and individual book chapters, through encyclopedias to commix and novels. But it does not stop there. Texts from the textbooks and mandatory literature will also be represented through quizzes on the platform and will also bring points.
From September 2019, Knigovishte will be available to classes and schools, as well as to individuals and families. The platform targets pupils from 1st to 10th grade, while prioritizing the pupils in 1st - 7th grade. Access is subscription-based, which secures the sustainability of the project. The average fee for one student's annual subscription will be less than BGN 1. Currently, the website is under construction. The official launch is on 24th May 2019, and in the meantime children can try the demo-version released in January 2019. Many teachers and school directors have already expressed their interest in Knigovishte.
The goal of Knigovishte is to make children fall in love with reading, to help them grasp the power of words, and make conversations about books part of their everyday lives – just like talking about a computer game. Because no matter what profession they would choose for their future – to become cosmonauts, robot engineers, designer, or explorers, reading will help them develop key skills for the coming decades – critical thinking, creativity, skills to collaborate and communicate with others. They will become interesting people capable of discovering the beauty in life.