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.

Child reading an ebook

A new study finds that enhanced eBooks for children don’t raise literacy levels. The study, which followed 32 pairs of parents working with young children, found that the young readers were distracted by the many different interactive parts of the enhanced story, and quickly forgot certain key parts of the narrative. The young readers were given 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 authors of the study commented, “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 completely dismiss the effectiveness of enhanced eBooks in getting children excited about reading. By having them interact with the text, young readers are building skills that will take them past enhanced eBooks and into the world of 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 are able to connect both experiences may produce the best readers.

Share your experience

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 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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