Get ready readers, on December 20th, CUCU- a brand new app developed by members of the essai team- is launching.
This is the next stage in reading’s evolution: the “Reavolution”
The claim that reading is dying, on its deathbed, breathing its last is no great insight. That might be an exaggeration, but the truth is a stone’s throw away. To search for scapegoats such as the world, change, children, and Instagram is easy and might even be correct (or at least part of the story). But what if it’s not the whole story? What if reading is to blame? What if we were to blame for not innovating in the field of reading? For not ‘renovating’! Bad humor aside, this is our view. This is the view of a team of educators who has conjured up CUCU from the classroom and put it into your phone, into your hands, and now hopefully in your mind.
Our experience in the classroom has taught us a few things. Firstly, that reading ought to be interactive. When our students encountered a reading which their teacher peppered with questions, contextualising facts and vignettes, they not only paid more attention but also became more curious- surely a holy grail of education.
Another thing we have learnt is that 'reading' is not a monolith. Rather, it is a diverse skillset, involving your working memory, vocabulary, critical thinking, ability to contextualise, and speed. If we accept this, then there is no such thing as being a 'bad reader'- you could simply be weak in one of the foundational skills causing the whole castle to collapse! Unfortunately, large class sizes and a lack of diagnostic tools make it impossible for a teacher to figure out the precise stumbling block for each student.
This is a sad situation. When a person falls out of love with reading, it's often because he believes that he is 'not good' at it, or because he is simply not inspired by his reading material. Unfortunately, teachers and parents have stumbled upon the wrong solution: read more. But the CUCU team believes that reading is like a sport- one which can only be enjoyed if you have received the right instruction. If you just keep failing you’re bound to quit. Anyone who has played golf, or yoga for that matter, will empathise with this analogy.
So yes, reading can be understood as a sport. And this is the road that lead us to CUCU. And like all sports, CUCU has an element of competition- a recognition of how cool it is to be a good reader. The CUCU team gets jealous when they meet someone who reads fast, comprehends, remembers, and lets the words and thoughts from a book merge with the words and thoughts of his life. The CUCU leaderboard is intended to reward careful and regular practice - an incentive NOT just to read more, but to read well.
Alright. You get the bigger picture. Onwards. How does CUCU work? Simple. Just choose one of the articles from the cucutheque to get started. The texts, which have been selected to expand your knowledge as well as model top-quality writing, converse with you. In each interaction you will be scored according to your accuracy in answering questions, as well as for your reading pace (yes the clock is ticking- up there in the right corner). You can flip back, but CUCU keeps track of that too, and it will harm your total score.
Although the classic CUCU question is multiple-choice, there’s a variety of forms to keep you on your toes. Furthermore, the questions fall into different categories, and you’ll get a score for each at the end. The Vocabulary questions will test you on the meanings of words in or out of their context, whilst Critical Thinking questions will test you on your general understanding of how the author links facts and arguments to make a whole. Contextualisation questions aim to measure your general knowledge in the subject area of the article, and Focus questions are paired with your ‘flip-back’ tendency to generate a measure of your ability to immediately recall stuff that you just read (i.e. your “working memory”). Your Speed score comes from how quickly you complete the CUCU, as well as your answers to the questions following the speed reading section that displays only chunks of words at a time, forcing you to really get in the game.
That's it! You're fully prepared to download the app on December 20th and find out what CUCU thinks of your reading skills. Have fun, play safe, and CUCU on!