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Library of Congress turns to BYU student collaboration to get kids engaged

A boom during the holiday season helped Apple sell 14.6 million iPads this past quarter, and it’s no secret that kids are using them. A recent study showed 40 percent use iPads before they can even speak.

After hours of gaming on the iPad, or Nexus or Galaxy Tab parents may be ready for something educational to go along with Angry Birds and Temple Run. Readers to the Rescue, a game built by a group of Brigham Young University students, is aimed at getting kids excited about reading.

Readers to the Rescue, just released, is available to play online for free on the Library of Congress website, The game runs on mobile devices as well as desktop computers.

To create the game, BYU’s Laycock Center brought together students from advertising, animation, film, graphic design, music and theater. In just two months, they came up with the format for the game, designed all of the characters and created 36 mini films.

“We combined all our energies and talents and made something that no single person would have been able to make on their own,” said Melissa Manwill, BYU student and head illustrator on the project. “We all made connections with other students we might not have otherwise met. We’re better off because of it. I certainly feel that I am.”

While the project was a benefit to the students who worked on it, it was also important for them to work on something that would benefit others.

The decline of reading interest among young people in the U.S. is an issue that national agencies, such as the Library of Congress, are aware of and looking to remedy. BYU students created the game for the Library of Congress to distribute.

“It doesn’t matter where you read, it matters that you read,” said Jeff Sheets, director of the Laycock Center. “We tried to use the same technology that takes these kids away from reading to bring them back to reading.”

Readers to the Rescue can be thought of as a visual mad-lib. The setting is a library, inhabited by various popular storybook characters, such as Pinocchio, Humpty-Dumpty and Sleeping Beauty. Users are asked to rescue the characters, and by doing so, place them in the blank spaces of a story, which results in one of 36 possible short animated films. At the end, readers are able to unlock a classic children’s book to read.     

Among the 36 books that users can unlock are “The Arabian Knights,” “Dracula,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” “The Secret Garden” and “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” For younger readers, there are “Rapunzel,” “Pinocchio,” “The Three Bears” and “Snow White,” among others.

The individuals who worked with the BYU team at the Library of Congress were very impressed with the end product they received.

“I had no idea how wonderful it was going to be,” said John Sayers, Library of Congress communications officer. “Everyone is tickled. I don’t think anything we’ve ever done along these lines ties so directly into reading and does it in such a delightful manner.”