PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - There's no question that instilling a love of reading in children at an early age helps create a foundation for success in school.
We recently met a man compelled by his own tragedy to get creative, developing books capable of capturing the attention of even the biggest videogame fans. FOX 29's Mike Jerrick has the story.
"I used to run about 5 to 7 miles, two, three times a week. And we used to ski. I lifted weights and road five days a week," Eric Luttio said. "This happened from an infection that I got in my blood… I woke up from the MRI, and that was eight hours later in the ICU. And a guy came over to me and said, 'By the way, you're a paraplegic. And you've lost the use of your legs, and you have a 50-percent chance of living."
"So, it changes like that?" Jerrick asked.
"In one second. And, so, I said, 'I'll take the hardest therapy I can get … and try to get better,'" Luttio said. "So I had two prayers in the hospital: one, that I could walk again; and, two, that I would do something that I could give back."
"…I used to paint a lot, and so I had a stack of paintings on the floor," he said. "And I said, 'I'm going to write a children's book about this, about this painting.' I kind of put a little bit of fun into each one of my paintings because I think life should be fun. And so I wrote this children's book, I wrote this outline for a children's book. And so I said, 'Can't we make a book that we could change the age of the book by just turning a digital dial?"
Luttio explained his idea by saying, "The ultimate goal is to bring excitement back into reading so kids are excited about being there. … Each character has up to 10 to 13 interactions."
When Jerrick said he'd never seen anything like that," Luttio added, "Every chapter there will be a word game, or a different type of learning game. And they'll do the little puzzle. And those will go up as they change the level of reading."
"Now all of the sudden the kid can go, 'Wait a minute, can I go to the next level?' … And so we put up to five different narrators in there. And, so, you can have a very calming voice read the book to you, or you can have the bully read it to you," Luttio said. "All of the sudden kids and parents are going, 'Wait a minute. You mean, but when the bully reads it, I really asked a question well why is he a bully? That kid is so weird.'"
At the William M. Meredith School, in the Queen Village section of Philadelphia, children reacted to the stories.
"I like the part when you get to choose the narrator. But I hate the man's voice, I just hate that," One girl told us.
"You like the lady's voice?" Jerrick asked her.
"Yes, I did," she replied.
Luttio, now CEO of Bellevue, Wash.-based FishyTale Digital, Inc., calls this "a fully interactive book."
"This gives them the opportunity to have someone to read with or have the actual iPad or something to read," one woman at the school told us.
"I like that you can, like, press the character, and then they, like, do something," another girl said.
"I like the story because it was 3-D," a boy said.
"It's kind of like you read and write together," another boy said.
Luttio said, "For the first time, teachers can see how their child's doing, and they'll be a little bit of analytics on the back, so you can show how the child is reading that book. So, maybe the child is dyslexic. We can change the font to dyslexia. And, all of the sudden, a dyslexic child can read the book."
Jerrick asked the children, "After watching this, would it make you want to read more?"
"Yes," the children said.
"You know what you've done?" Jerrick asked Luttio. "You maybe have changed the way children read."
"We hope that we can change the environment where we can get kids so excited about reading that they don't want to use a game to try to shoot someone," Luttio responded. "It's the most important thing we have in the United States is our children. And if we can help them read, they can change the world."
The book the kids at the Meredith School loved is called "Lyle Little." You can download it, and others in the series, for $1.99 in the Apple iTunes app store, Jerrick reports.