Do enhanced Ebooks promote children’s literacy?

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Mixing a children’s book with something like a videogame seems like a no-brainer for promoting reading skills, right? Apparently not. Let’s take a moment to explore how enhanced ebooks are impacting children’s literacy.

Child reading an ebook

A new study finds that enhanced eBooks for children don’t raise literacy levels. The study followed 32 pairs of parents working with young children. Researchers found that the many interactive parts of the enhanced story distracted the young readers. The students quickly forgot certain key parts of the narrative. They gave the young readers an ebook, a physical copy, and an enhanced ebook version of the same story. After reading them all, the comprehension just didn’t add up.

“The enhanced eBook was less effective than the print and basic ebook in supporting the benefits of co-reading because it prompted more non-content related interactions.
When adults prompt children with questions pertaining to the text, label objects, and encourage them to discuss the book’s content in terms of their own experiences and curiosities, this elicits increased verbalization by the child and can lead to improved vocabulary and overall language development.”

Striking a Balance

Still, the researchers were not ready to dismiss the effectiveness of enhanced ebooks in promoting children’s literacy. They found interacting with the text did promote useful skills. Young readers built on those skills and retained them when reading a standard text. Researcher Cynthia Chiong noted, “If enhanced books can engage kids who might not be as interested in reading, we will achieve an important goal.”

Striking a balance between productive interactivity and fun is definitely a difficult task. Children tend to gravitate toward playing games instead of reading, but parents and educators who can connect both experiences may produce the best readers.

Share your experience with Children’s Literacy

How has your experience been with enhanced ebooks and children? Are they all that different from the books you were raised on? What role should games have in promoting children’s literacy, and where is the line between productive and unproductive time with a book? Do books with games in them engage the imagination, or do they just raise a generation of non-readers, who prefer to learn only through games?

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