The splendid science behind personalization
When we started Wonderbly, we had one (very big) dream: create the most magical personalized children’s book in the universe. Little did we know the power we were unleashing! From boosting children’s reading skills to heightening empathy, the power of personalization is just beginning to be recognised as a super effective learning and developmental tool for children. And we’ve made it available right here, for anyone to use, in any of our books! Read more about the science behind personalization below – and prepare to have your mind blown.
Benefit 1: Boosts reading confidence
Any child, no matter their name, can become a hero in our stories. A study by the National literacy Trust (NLT) reported that ‘Seeing oneself in a book can have a powerful effect on children, making “explicit the idea that they are welcome … in the world of the written word”. And when kids feel they belong, it’s a key step towards identifying as a reader.
Kindergarten teacher Bridget told us, ‘I love the engaging nature of your stories, the personalization, and the rhyming – all components that build an early reader.”
There’s always that initial moment of jaw-dropping, eye-widening wonder when a child sees themselves in their own book. And over time, this wonder allows a child to engage more fully with what they’re reading and learning. In fact, reading personalised books ‘enables children to see themselves as readers from an early age which, if maintained, can put them three years ahead of their peers in reading age by the age of 14’ (NLT). Yup – THREE years. Tres, trois, tre… it’s a triumphant statistic indeed.
Benefit 2: Increases self-esteem
All of our books are written to help children to develop a sense of positive self-identity. This is especially true in our personalized book The Wondrous Road Ahead.
In this story, you can choose three strengths for your child to carry with them on the journey of life – from bravery, to honesty, to kindness and respect.
Dr. Natascha Crandall, Education Consultant, told us the story ‘promotes positive qualities and teaches children in a very concrete way how our character traits are tools that we use in difficult situations, and that these tools can be used to help ourselves as well as others. By having this be a personalized book, it takes it one step further and shows children that they already have these traits.’
Benefit 3: Skyrockets early learning and literacy skills
The power of personalization has been well-documented to improve kids’ ability and motivation to learn. When children are engaged in the story, they are more easily able to pick up new words and knowledge. And what’s more, they can recall them more easily too! A study of pre-school children found that children spoke more, and for longer, when sharing personalized stories. And another study showed a significant leap in word acquisition when reading a personalized text versus a non-personalized one. Hurrah!
Following this awesome and promising research, we’ll soon be launching our first personalized learning book, ABC For You book. Using rhyme, colour, opposites and a highly personalized (and fun) mini-story on each spread, it contains all the tools to help launch a little one’s learning journey into the stratosphere.
Benefit 4: Develops empathy
Stories play a huge role in helping children understand the thoughts, feelings and motivations of others. Carnegie Mellon University discovered that when you get lost in a book, your brain lives through the characters at a neurological level. So when children become the main character, their brains are literally seeing themselves enacting the behaviours of the hero. Helping others. Solving problems. Being curious. With this logic, encountering different characters in our stories helps hardwire children to be empathetic to others in real life.
Mum Aamna agrees: “Your stories also always have a great moral or something to teach and make the experience of reading and learning more relatable for the child through visualizing themselves as the main character.”
Benefit 5: Bridges the diversity gap
Our stories make no assumptions or prejudgements. Our audience is children. Children with any name. Children who live anywhere, and with any family structure. Boys who like ice cream, or girls who like dinosaurs. Got it? Anyone!
At a time when only only 4% of children’s books feature a BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) main character, we’ve deliberately built a framework that allows any child to see a hero they can relate to – themselves! While our characters can never perfectly represent every unique skin tone, our personalized books are helping to bridge the diversity gap by offering options. Happy mum Brittany told us, “We love our Wonderbly books! Thank you sooooo much for creating your characters with different skin tones! Now my biracial baby will have books that actually look like him!”
Benefit 6: Shows kids they have limitless potential
According to the National Literacy Trust, ‘the option of featuring a child’s appearance, gender and ethnicity within a personalized book provides a unique opportunity for children to see themselves in a published book, increasing self-esteem and a “sense of possible destinations”.’
Our personalized search-and-find books Where Are You…? make this idea of limitless possible destinations available to all kids – by sending them on a journey across space and time to look for different versions on themselves!
Mum Kat told us the book is “A wonderful experience for my daughter. I’m so happy to see her so immensely happy and delighting in all the options for her future. Truly the best gift I’ve ever given her!”
Benefit 7: Helps kids genuinely love reading!
A study of children aged 9 to 10 showed that when they were given personalized stories to read, their reading comprehension scores improved by more than 40%. Yes – 40%! The researchers concluded that the personal relevance made the texts more interesting, more relatable, and – most importantly – more enjoyable.
And that’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it? Celebrating the joy of reading. At Wonderbly we don’t shy away from introducing children to interesting words and ideas. Words like narwhal, rebooting, vegan, stalactites, fragrant, ferocious, dolefully, frock and frothy. And ideas like time travel, alternative universes, respect, kindness and the idea that making mistakes helps you grow.
We’re still learning at Wonderbly. Learning what people love about our books, and what could work better. We value every single review and every single piece of feedback we get. And it makes the whole lovely, messy, glorious adventure worthwhile when we see the effect our books have on kids. We’ll leave you with the words of Fitri’s son: “My son made a comment after receiving this book, ‘Mom, I thought I was just an ordinary kid, but now, I believe I’m extraordinary!’”