Tag Archives: kids

Read-a-long E-books can Speed-a-long Literacy Education

l_p00210195641Children’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.


The Children’s E-book: the death of children’s literacy, or the second coming of books?

With the emergence of e-books, there came what can be called a “panic” in the publishing community, and the larger general book loving public. Thousands of book lovers, willing to do or say anything to defend their beloved physical book. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a book lover like any other, however, I think story lover would be a more accurate title. While the medium in which it is delivered is undeniably significant, it is important to remember that it is a story that it at the centre of each book, or information in the case of non-fiction. In the e-book scare this idea is more important than ever.

In a 2012 article written by Nate Hoffelder, “Enhanced eBooks Don’t Enhance Literacy,” Hoffelder biasly discusses the findings of a study which commented on the potential of enhanced e-book features to distract young readers. The study examined 32 parents and kids, and the information they retained from reading a physical book, an ebook, and an enhanced e-book. Results showed that the enhanced e-books were not as effective as the physical text and Hoffelder notes multiple times that the findings are “obvious”. There seems to be a fear, in this technological age, that today’s children will be taken into the “techie cult”, and that the joy of reading will die a sad lonely death. Why is it so obvious that a child would be so incapable to decode an e-book, and come to absorb information in a similar way that they do through a book? Do e-books and physical books not have the same goal, to deliver content and story to their reader?

A lot of emphasis in the article is placed on the disadvantages of using enhanced e-books, and the many ways they can take a child’s attention away from the text, thereby diminishing their comprehension. However, Hoffelder glosses over the findings regarding the un-enhanced e-book. The study found that parents and kids actually showed more engagement and retention with the un-enhanced e-book, than with the physical book. Although the difference was small, this information still goes a long way in supporting further investigation of the benefits of e-book use for children. While Hoffelder does call this information interesting, he quickly brushes it off by saying he’d “hesitate to draw any conclusions from it”.

By the end of his article, Hoffelder does note that he hesitates to take any of this data too seriously, and he argue that further investigation needs to be done. Although, his initial blatant bias towards the physical book highlights an issue which exists among many educators and those who provide books for young children. Perhaps, we need to spot seeing the e-book as a threat to children’s literacy, but rather as a diamond in the rough, that when carefully crafted, can become a beautiful tool.