Deep in Earth's next ice age, stories have become the fuel for life. In the remote outpost of Storyhaven the townsfolk gather to tell their tales. Now though, this precious resource is disappearing. Someone is stealing the town's stories. Deprived of their fuel the fablehearths will go out, the ice will creep back in and families will perish in their beds. In a last desperate roll of the dice, the town’s story shamans develop a perilous means of time travel to allow their most intrepid explorers to journey back into the past to save the town's tales before they can disappear.
Children reading for pleasure at 10 years old is a stronger predictor of academic success than parents’ level of education (Sullivan & Brown, 2015). The powerful mental stimulus of reading boosts children's creativity and literacy skills, as well as positive social and emotional development (Whitten et al., 2016). Reading for pleasure, however, is on the decline as books must compete with video games, streaming TV and mobile phones for children's attention (Clarke & Picton, 2020). Social media like Instagram and Tiktok is increasingly recognised as damaging to young people's mental wellbeing (Rogers & Rousseau, 2022), monetising their need for social recognition from their peers to generate advertising revenue.
Storyhaven is an immersive reading and roleplaying game for children aged 7-13 years old to play with their friends and family, in which they become adventurers from the town of Storyhaven, sent back into the past to save the townsfolk's tales and rewrite them.
By creating a richly social reading experience and bringing the story world to life through immersive theatre techniques, Storyhaven aims to welcome more children into the world of books, as well as challenging established readers with an innovative new format for children's fiction that encourages them to co-author the narrative alongside us.
Storyhaven's powerful invitation to extend its story world from the inside builds children's skills of writing, critical thinking, creativity and self-expression.
The experience is driven by a team reading game that can be played on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop. 2-6 players navigate their way together through episodes of a branching narrative (choose-your-own-adventure story), talking decisions over together in a way that creates a fun, bonding social experience.
Storyhaven can be played in a few sessions over one weekend, or spread out longer, like the shared reading of a children's book, over 2-6 weeks, creating a parallel ice-age world you can dip into whenever you have the time for a little more. The reading game remembers where you were in the narrative, so you only have to open it again on your device to continue your journey together.
At key points in the plot the words are brought to life through video messages from immersive theatre actors playing characters from the story world in a way that makes the reading experience attractive to reluctant readers, as well as providing established readers with a thrilling new digital media experience.
Episodes designed for team play lead into episodes for lone reading, which differentiates players' experience of the story world, promoting dialogue in the next session of team play. If children play with their friends this harnesses social peer-group experiences to power real changes to children’s reading habits at home.
Children are invited to create their own player characters from one of the Storyhaven town guilds, which gives them different skills to use during gameplay, allowing every player to feel like they have contributed to the success of the mission. The illustrations have been designed to be an inclusive invitation for diverse children to imagine themselves at the heart of the adventure.
Immersion in the game is supported by physical props like a printable map of the town, which can be spread out in front of you when playing around a table or carried with you on a car journey or camping trip to support your shared imagining of the story world.
Children love creatively adapting objects they find lying around the house to support their games of make-believe. Storyhaven plays to this need to make a story their own from the inside. An old leather satchel might be transformed into an improvised adventuring bag; a handkerchief and some painted pebbles could become a pouch containing the crystal story runes you will save and rewrite on your adventure. The more the children are allowed to contribute to crafting the experience, the more special it will become to them, and the more powerfully they will be motivated by the fiction.
Children keep an adventure journal during gameplay, in which they rewrite the stories they save on their adventure into the town's past. The stories are enshrined within crystal rune stones, gifted to members of the town to enshrine the key meanings of their tale. This device helps children to understand that stories can always be reworked and passed on anew, and helps them towards becoming authors themselves as they rewrite the story world from the inside.
They are also encouraged to keep notes on the development of their character and clues to the mystery of who is stealing the town's stories, which helps build literacy skills of note-taking and responsibility for their own learning. By the end of the experience the children will have compiled a real literacy achievement that they can show to family and friends, which further encourages their storytelling and self-expression.
The alluringly designed pages of the journal are provided with the game, printable from any home printer. Instructions for how to make a DIY ancient cover are also included, which boosts children's ownership of the experience and pride in their literacy development.
The game is accompanied by access to the website, where children can read more about the story world, explore an interactive town map that will allow them to enter its buildings and meet more characters.
They can also upload the stories and artwork they have created during the game to be featured in galleries of player content, read those submitted by other children, and win prizes that will further encourage them in their reading journeys.
Maybe your family and child is already comfortable reading fiction in English, but even if you aren't, encouraging your child to play Storyhaven with their friends or playing it together as a family can help you make real progress with your English. In our team we have over twenty years' experience of Teaching English as a Foreign Language at institutions like the British Council in different countries across the world. We strongly believe that Storyhaven’s group-reading dynamics allows stronger readers to support weaker ones as teams negotiate the narrative together. Its chunked text breaks down a long novel-length text into smaller, more digestible passages and episodes, gradually leading non-native speakers into a rich and prolonged fictional experience in English that can be transformative of their language learning, as well as the reading-for-pleasure habits that are so key to advanced progress with English beyond B2 level of the CEFR. The website has an easy to use language button that instantly translates all page content, so that you can can fully understand the project in you own language before deciding to embark on this exciting fictional adventure in English with your child. This follows a growing trend for non-native-speaking families to support their children's language-learning through shared fictional experiences in English (Foray et al, 2015).
Wonderspun is a research-backed, not-for-profit organisation, harnessing creative R&D funding to explore the immersive futures of children's reading. We want as many people as possible to experience our games, so have tried to set a price that will be accessible to all.
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