Special Issue of Human Technology on Supporting Urgent Basic Reading Skills in Children

We are pleased to announce that the new issue of the on-line journal Human Technology: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Humans in ICT Environments has been published.

This Special Issue on Supporting Urgent Basic Reading Skills in Children, edited by Prof. Heikki Lyytinen and Prof. Ulla Richardson of the Agora Center, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, comprises original papers addressing the technological, academic, and environmental support needed to help young struggling readers. You can access the issue at http://www.humantechnology.jyu.fi/current/

GraphoGame will help children with dyslexia in Emirati

On Sunday, May 18 2014, the Ta’leem Training and Skill Development Centre in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, signed an agreement with the Niilo Mäki Foundation, the Agora Centre and the University of Jyvaskyla, to provide the GraphoGame.

Ms Shereen Al Nowais, the Ta’leem founder, said she wanted to start using the GraphoGame as soon as possible. She also planned on opening a branch of the Agora Centre for Human Technology, which assisted in creating the GraphoGame, in Abu Dhabi. “The programme will be exclusively used by the Ta’leem Centre to help teach students with learning disabilities, but will also help in preventing learning disabilities developing.”

Read the whole article in The National.

ReadAll – all read?

We are proudly announcing the beginning of a new GraphoGame related research project: ReadAll.

Technology-enhanced environment for supporting reading development in all learners (ReadAll) is a new four-year project funded by the Future of Learning, Knowledge and Skills (TULOS) Research Programme of the Academy of Finland.

In this joint project between the Niilo Mäki Institute and Agora Center in he University of Jyväskylä a new dynamic version of GraphoGame will be developed to train both reading accuracy and speed (fluent reading skills). The bottlenecks struggling readers have will be investigated from the early experience of the game. This information will be directly utilized into developing individually adaptive training environment for 7-11 years old children.

The aim is to develop evidence-based and cost-effective environment for efficiently developing reading skills with automatic evaluation suited for individual learners with varying skill levels.


Promotion of literacy in China, The Netherlands and Finland

Until recently, specific developmental reading difficulty, dyslexia, has been recognized and investigated mainly in the English speaking countries and  in other western languages. However, in the past years it has been reported that between 5% and 10% of school-aged Chinese children have dyslexia. Reading difficulties in Chinese are found mainly in word reading and spelling.

Since there is no standardized reading assessment in Mandarin, these children cannot be diagnosed until their friends have learned to read in the fifth or sixth years of primary school.

New versions of GraphoGame in Chinese Pinyin and Mandarin

Children with dyslexia are often mistakenly regarded as  lazy or lacking motivation to learning. The parents and teachers need to realize this specific reading disability. There are 270 000 000 Children in China below 14 years old, thus the number of children with dyslexia could be more than 13 000 000 according to the 5% low estimation. No specific treatment program or institution is available in mainland of China. These children get frustrated and their school performance as well as self-esteem suffers significantly.

The cooperation between Finnish and Chinese researchers aims to develop a Chinese GraphoGame on Pinyin and Mandarin as well as investigate effectiveness of those games to help Chinese children to learn to read in Chinese.

A Dutch version GraphoGame

The aim is to develop a GraphoGame version so that Dutch children can take the first steps in learning to read. The game content will also provide appropriate training in reading fluency for those who already have learned the basic skill. Those children can read accurately but reading still needs a strong effort and may be very slow.

Empirical studies of both Chinese and Dutch GraphoGames

Based on the new language versions the project will then take on the challenge of studying the effectiveness of these games in empirical settings.

All partners from Finland, China and the Netherlands have since long been involved and successful in longitudinal studies from children at risk of dyslexia. The project will concentrate on investigation of these unique data-sets and potentially produces significant scientific breakthroughs as a joint effort.

The LITERATE project is funded by the EU Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme LITERATE-project PIRSES-GA-2013-612663

Namibian Education System Undergoing Much Needed Change

The Minister of Education in Namibia, Dr David Namwandi made an announcement late last week regarding the long awaited changes to the education system. Of special interest is the extension to the number of years in which mother-tongue instruction will be offered.

According to The Namibian, a local newspaper:

“Mother-tongue instruction will be introduced from pre-primary to Grade 4 level, with a transition to English in Grades 5 to 6 to allow children to cope with English as the medium of instruction further along.”

This means that there will be five years of mother-tongue instruction and two years of transition to English as medium of instruction. The current education system has three years of mother-tongue instruction and one year of transition to English.

Amongst changes to the Namibian education system is the change to the structure of the school phases, making pre-primary compulsory and moving grade 7 to the secondary phase; free secondary school education will commence in 2016 (free primary education was introduced in 2013); and vocational subjects will get a stronger emphasis to provide learners with more career options.

This is a step in the right direction and hopefully the learners will bear the fruit thereof, especially learners in the lower primary phase, who will have a longer period to learn in their mother-tongue. A positive impact on the quality of their reading is expected.

For more information, please read the full story in The Namibian

Blog post written by Ms. Pamela February from University of Namibia


A new study about game features and children’s engagement in using GraphoGame

An article recently published in Computers & Education highlights the importance of game features in supporting children’s engagement in digital game -based learning. Earlier studies have shown that GraphoGame helps children to acquire the basics of reading, but less is known about its effect on children’s motivation. Children with a risk for reading disability often need several hours of training before they learn to master the connections between letters and sounds, and therefore it is important that GraphoGame does not lose its appeal too soon.

The article reports the findings of a study in which the effects of two game features, a reward system and the level of challenge, were investigated in an experimental setting. The participants were Finnish first and second graders (N = 138), each of whom were given one of four versions of GraphoGame to use at their homes for eight weeks. Each version had a different combination of the game features: the reward system was either present or absent, and the level of challenge was either high or typical.

If the reward system was present, the player earned tokens and gained access to new game levels after a certain number of completed tasks. The level of challenge was determined by Bayesian adaptation logic, and was set either as high (around 60% success rate), or as typical (80% success rate).

It was found that the children playing with the reward system versions initially played longer sessions than the children playing without the reward system. However, after the first sessions the playing times started to decline, and eventually there were no differences in the total playing time among different player groups. This suggests that the reward system was able to increase children’s engagement only temporarily. However, according to the parents, the children using the reward system versions concentrated better during gaming than the other children. Generally, playing was less frequent than expected in all player groups. The level of challenge did not have significant effect on children’s engagement.

The results suggest that it is important to investigate the long-term effects of game features further and keep developing features that not only trigger, but also sustain children’s engagement until the goals set for learning are achieved.

Source: Ronimus, M., Kujala, J., Tolvanen, A. & Lyytinen, H. (2014). Children’s engagement during digital game-based learning or reading: The effects of time, rewards, and challenge. Computers & Education, 71, 237– 246. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2013.10.008


GraphoGame™ Pinyin for learning to read in Chinese

Researchers aim to validate GraphoGame™ Pinyin version for children in China during year 2014.

– Researchers from Beijing Normal University have done great work on the Pinyin version of GraphoGame™. We are proud to announce that the preliminary results are very positive, says Professor Heikki Lyytinen, from University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

The common goal is to develop Pinyin and Character versions of GraphoGame™ for children to learn to read in Chinese. These language versions are developed in collaboration with Beijing Normal University and University of Jyväskylä as part of the Grapho Learning Initiative.

Currently the GraphoGame™ provides an optimized instruction for learning the skill of reading Pinyin symbols.

GraphoGame research group is currently visiting Beijing, China as part of an academic delegation, led by Minister of Education and Culture of Finland, Ms Krista Kiuru.

Scientific Results from the Chilean GraphoGame™ Version

GraphoGame™ is a child-friendly computer game that helps children to learn the basic letters and their sounds. This skill is vital for learning to read. Our aim is to provide GraphoGame™ for children in Chile during the year 2014.

The University of Jyväskylä has a joint research project  “Predicting and supporting reading acquisition via computer games for children at risk for dyslexia” with the Chilean colleagues from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Centro de Desarrollo de Tecnologías de Inclusión (CeDeTI) with the lead of Professor Ricardo Rosas. The joint project that is ending this year is funded by the Academy of Finland and CONICYT.

– We are today pleased to announce preliminary results from the Chilean version of GraphoGame, says professor Heikki Lyytinen from University of Jyväskylä.

Professor Lyytinen is currently visiting Santiago de Chile on a ministerial delegation, led by Minister of Education and Culture of Finland, Ms Krista Kiuru.

The results show that children who played GraphoGame™ Chile improved significantly their basic skills for reading in comparison to children who did not get to play the game. After six hours of playing their letter sound recognition skills were significantly better.

– These children are from public schools and have  a relatively low socioeconomical background. Their parents have maximum of 9 years of education and monthly salary is about  332-500 US dollars, says professor Ulla Richardson from the University of Jyväskylä.

The game was developed in Finland in the interdisciplinary Agora Human Technology Center of the University of Jyväskylä in collaboration with the Niilo Mäki Institute. It is based on the scientific follow-up study of Finnish children at familial risk for dyslexia from birth to reading age which professor Heikki Lyytinen started in the early 1990´s.

Research on the efficiency and validation of new language versions continues in several countries.

More info:

Professor Heikki Lyytinen
Dept.of Psychology & Agora Center
University of Jyväskylä
email: heikki.j.lyytinen at jyu.fi
phone: +358 50 5524892

Professor Ulla Richardson
University of Jyväskylä, Agora Center
email: ulla.a.richardson at jyu.fi
phone: +358 400 247398



Website Update

Today we released the new website for GraphoGame.

We have given up the use of grapholearn.info and info.grapholearn.com domains and are concentrating on developing graphogame.com. We hope you find what you are looking for and like the new layout.

Special tip for researchers: to login to the “GraphoGame Server” you find a link at the top of each page.

Kalulu Story Writing Competition

Kalulu Story Writing Competition

Winners of the KALULU Story Writing Competition

You are cordially invited to the Award Ceremony of
the KALULU Story Writing Competition
at Kaunda Square Basic School, Lusaka
on Wednesday 19 October 2011 at 10 hrs.

Kalulu, the rabbit, is a celebrated trickster in African folk tales. Kalulu was also the name of a Story Writing Competition arranged by the GraphoREAD Project from Finland in cooperation with Zambian partners.

The Competition was designed to generate a collection of new exciting stories in Zambian languages for young children to read as they begin to acquire the founding elements of literacy. A selection of the best stories submitted to the competition will be published in mobile phones, in print and on the Internet.

More than 700 stories were submitted to the competition in Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja and Tonga. The writers of the selected best creative stories in all 7 languages and the 6 best poems will be awarded on Wednesday 19 October 2011, at the event held at Kaunda Square Basic School, Lusaka.

The programme includes dance and music performances by local artists. The event is specially designed for children and is hosted by Mr Gankhanani Moyo, a versatile artist and writer himself.

Mr Geoffrey Tambulukani, University of Zambia, will represent the distinguished panel of judges. The invited guests include the representatives from the Ministry of Education, University of Zambia, the Embassy of Finland, the GraphoREAD Project, Niilo Mäki Institute, Finland and several local non-governmental organisations.

The event will be video recorded. We also welcome local media representatives to attend the event.

Warmly welcome,

Prof Heikki Lyytinen
Project Leader, GraphoREAD
University of Jyväskylä


The GraphoREAD Project is part of The Grapho Learning Initiative, run by University of Jyväskylä and Niilo Mäki Institute from Finland. It is funded by Tekes – The Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.

The KALULU Story Writing Competition is organised by GraphoREAD in cooperation with University of Zambia (UNZA), the Centre for the Promotion of Literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa (CAPOLSA), Ministry of Education, Republic of Zambia, Forum for African Women Educationalists of Zambia (FAWEZA) and National Arts Council of Zambia.

The competition is sponsored by Airtel Zambia.


Our aim is to create a solid and sustainable ground for our work  to help millions of African children learn to read, learn and enjoy the wonders of literacy.  When children learn to read in their own, spoken language, it is easier for them to learn other languages as well. These are the essential steps toward developing literacy and self-expression through language.