VALA2020 CC5 Tharmarajah

Can a chatbot help children learn to love to read?

This session is sponsored by Informit


Thursday 13 February 2020, 10.50-12.30

Meena Tharmarajah
  • State Library of NSW & Wriveted

Please tag your comments, tweets, and blog posts about this session: #vala2020 #cc5


Australia’s first chat-bot designed to get kids reading was launched at the State Library of NSW on 8 November 2019. Scout is a fun, interactive robot that uses a conversational interface which helps children quickly discover books matched to their interests and general reading ability.

Scout was created by award-winning experience designer Meena Tharmarajah in collaboration with the State Library’s DX Lab. It assesses a child’s interests and reading level before dispensing a list of up to five books they will enjoy reading in The Children’s Library.

Meena is the creative force behind the ABC Play School iPad Apps (The Art Maker and Play Time) and spent a few months working on the chat-bot concept at the Library as a DX Lab Digital drop-in. She believes “all digital experiences should be both useful and enjoyable.”

“Scout is an experiment in understanding how children might find a book they will love to read. And really the people best equipped to provide insight on what will really work for children are the children themselves,” says Meena.

Meena consulted with the Library’s Learning team and ran design thinking workshops with Year 5 students from Balgowlah North Public School which helped inform the chat- bot experience, including the physical design. Meena says Scout is a great tool for librarians and could inform how a collection might be organised, but also the type of books that could be added to a collection.

Participants in this session will be asked to give critical feedback on:

  • The overall experience of using the Scout chatbot
  • The manner in which books have been tagged and then recommended
  • Data literacy activities that expose children to:
    – the language that can be used to describe and find books,
    – the impact those tags have on their ability to find books,
    – the impact ‘liking’ a book may have on future recommendations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.