Scottish publishing company encourages school children to learn languages by publishing books

An innovative publishing process developed by Bombadil Publishing is encouraging Scottish school children to rate and publish their work to help them learn Gaelic language skills.

Bombadil Publishing is a creative industries business based in the small village of Dornie in the Scottish Highlands and already has a global reputation for producing quality ebooks and printed books by young authors aged between 12 and 26 years old in English, Spanish, Swedish and Gaelic.

Founded in Sweden in 2007, the company relocated to Scotland in February 2015 and has expanded quickly, with young people writing in 90 countries. The company works intensively with Highlands and Islands Enterprise through its account management support, and was assisted last year by Scottish Enterprise with a Regional Selective Assistance grant of £100,000 to create 14 new jobs over the next three and a half years.

Recently the company collaborated with Education Scotland to find a way to use its online manuscript support system, MageQuill, as an educational tool for students, particularly to help interact with and develop Gaelic language skills.

This resulted in a pilot project for Gaelic Medium Education students from Primary 5 to Secondary 6, with the company’s manuscript creation process becoming part of the curriculum. From the success of the pilot, there’s now scope to extend the process to all primary and English speaking students to help teach any language.

The challenge that the company faced in entering the education market was how to design and build a process that improves students’ interest in improving their own writing skills, so a competitive ‘rating’ element, similar to games ratings that young people are familiar with, is incorporated. Current systems are available that rely on meta-data alone for ranking, but these don’t cater to the likes and dislikes of the students.

The process also needed to ensure that any eBooks produced are of a high language quality so that teachers are satisfied, and that any eBooks capture emerging trends in youth reading matter, keeping students satisfied.

Conventional collaborative editing and manual validation and assessment of each piece of writing are too time intensive for the volume of young people involved. Students are invited to rank and review the various books, including which genres should be used and how to classify books according to reading interest.

So the company developed an innovative and unique ‘funnelling process’ that means students can interact and rate the various pieces of writing being created through their school work in a way that brings particularly good pieces of writing to the fore with the potential to become published books.

To continue this work to the next stage, a SMART:Scotland feasibility study grant of £96,212 from Scottish Enterprise will contribute to overall project costs of £150,805 for the project that will map reading trends with Scottish students that will make MageQuill even more innovative and student-centric.

Marianne Rugard Jarvstrat, CEO of Bombadil Publishing, commented: "MageQuill will help us publish more stories, and by talking to students about what books they want, revising the old fashioned view on books and content, we will be able to ensure that publishing remains an important part of the future. Scottish Enterprise is helping us to help the young people have a say in what they want to read and write. I truly believe that will revive literacy and start a new era in publishing."

Michael Cannon, R&D and SMART:Scotland director at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Embracing innovation makes sound business sense. Companies that do this grow nearly twice as fast as other companies, creating more jobs and potential investment.

“For Scotland to remain globally competitive, we need innovation woven into the very DNA of businesses so that it permeates all areas. Companies like Bombadil Publishing show what’s possible when you review an existing process and think creatively about reinventing it for a new market with global sales potential.”

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