Children’s interest in technology and it’s ability to harness their attention seems more relevant than ever in our technologically savvy society, where kids can be seen in strollers holding iPads. I find myself in awe as I spy toddlers swiping at touch screens to unlock digital devices. As tablets like iPads start entering schools, many are asking how these tools can be integrated into early childhood education. Particularly, with the emerging potential of using e-books to improve literacy skills. While some studies, such as those reviewed by Annie Murphy Paul on the New York Times blog “Motherlode”, site e-books as a distraction, others have seen benefits to this new book format.
In “Study: eBooks Beat Print Books at Helping Young Kids Learn Words,” written by Nate Hoffelder discusses a study conducted by researchers at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute that examines how e-books featuring narration can improve the literacy skills of young students. Hoffelder seems to have changed his tune from his earlier article relating to ebooks and children’s literacy, as this article promotes the potential benefits of e-book integration into literacy education. The study surveyed 30 four year olds who were split into two groups. One half were exposed twice a day to a digital version of the children’s book Tanabata Basu on an iPad, which featured narration that synced with text and highlighted a word as it was read aloud. The other half were exposed to the physical book the same number of times, read aloud to them by their mothers. The results showed that the word recognition of the group reading from the e-books improved at a much faster rate than the group reading from the physical books.
These findings show that there is some merit to the e-book’s ability to enhance literacy education. I think such studies should teach educators not to be weary of the e-book, but rather to be more aware of the way in which they use it. This study proves that in the right circumstances, the extra features of the e-book can serve to enhance children’s understanding of text, rather than distract young readers from the words on the page. In the future, further studies should be done to track what e-book features are most effective in the teaching environment.
Publishers and educators need to keep an open mind about the potential of the e-book to improve literacy education in the classroom. Teachers and publishers could begin thinking about specific literacy skills, and then work on developing e-book features that would foster these skills. Through these processes, publishers could potentially begin to develop e-books that would work to improve specific skills, in the same way that this study at Kyoto University fostered an improvement in word recognition. If educators and publishers can work together to investigate what features can improve the reading experience for young students, the possibilities for e-book learning are endless.
If you’re interested in read-a-long e-books, or general children’s e-books, check out our Excellent E-books page for some options.