These days, all eyes seem to be on YouTube Kids. Or, at the very least, 20 million of them. The 18-month-old app, which has surpassed 10 billion views and 10 million downloads, is using its reach to help motivate kids to read in June’s #readalong campaign. And in doing so, the platform is harnessing the power of kinetic typography in a way that has educators, well-known writers, publishers and even Broadway producers talking.
The use of kinetic typography—the art of integrating text with movement—in #readalong spans up to a hundred pieces of original content from publishers like Simon & Schuster, which launched the Simon Kids channel for the campaign, and the producers of Broadway musical School of Rock, who created a new “If Only You Would Listen” lyric video. (There are also original read-aloud, DIY-themed storytime and reading-themed character videos sporting the #readalong moniker.)
While the concept of kinetic typography isn’t necessarily new, a platform like YouTube Kids is showing how the digital manipulation of words can introduce new learning styles with very young kids.
“Typography is the unique art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible. By adding animated movement to characters, kinetic typography expresses language meanings in a deeper and more dynamic way,” says Berkeley Graduate School of Education professor Anne Cunningham, who specializes in reading cognition.
For example, a video that adds a small vibration to the word “help” can convey a sense of fear, which offers a deeper understanding of the word.
“The kinetic nature may not only aid in reading comprehension, but could also provide an element of expression and additional communication beyond static text. That, combined with the pairing of pictures, helps children understand what they are reading,” says Cunningham, adding that YouTube Kids is at the forefront of digital platforms highlighting this reading approach. Since the proliferation of interactive media offers more opportunities for text to be manipulated in size, shape and color, Cunningham predicts there will be more digital videos employing kinetic typography through the use of sounds, visuals, photos and symbols. “Multi-sensory methods have demonstrated advantages for learning to read,” she says.
For now, at least within the confines of YouTube Kids and the 30 days of June, kinetic typography remains part of the app’s mandate to engage, enrich and explore. And the move to highlight this sort of reading content came from seeing what was already popular on the platform, according to Nadine Zylstra, head of kids and learning for YouTube Originals.
“Our community was already producing these reading videos, and we saw how interesting they were. So we connected with certain YouTubers and content producers for this initiative, and so many were moved by it,” Zylstra says.
While YouTube reached out to third parties for the campaign, all content was created independently and uploaded to the platform as part of the app’s regular framework.
Relevant #readalong videos have been tagged accordingly and highlighted in different sections of the app. Curated playlists that feature reading-related videos, such as one made by Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, will also be up for viewing as part of the program, which is primarily aimed at kids ages two to eight.
“You wouldn’t think of lyric videos as being a teaching tool for kids to read,” Zylstra says, noting that her young daughter was able to recognize complex words just from watching them come to life over and over again on screen.
Like the use of kinetic typography itself, Zylstra believes the #readalong campaign is part of something much larger. “I can see us doing something similar next year,” she says. “The idea of watching the platform and seeing what our community is organically coming up with is exciting.”