Interactive Book Reading: A Use for Electronics
It’s no secret that reading to children has great benefits for their language development, but what can we do to make sure they get the maximum benefit from being read to?
In a study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, researchers used an interactive electronic storybook teller to see how we can help preschoolers learn new vocabulary. One group of children heard an automated story that had pictures, photos, text, and embedded lesson pages. The stories included challenging vocabulary and basic concept words that the child likely already knew. The narration emphasized vocabulary words, and paused to ask the child to repeat words or to give a definition of a word. Regardless of the child’s response, after a pause, the narration provided a definition or repeated the word, and praised the child. The narration also paused to ask questions about the story, and asked the child to make predictions about what might happen next, or how the story related to the child’s life.
In a second group, children listened to the same story with a narration and text, but there were no pictures or photos, and the narrator did not emphasize vocabulary words or pause to ask comprehension questions.
When comparing the two groups, researchers found that the children who received the storybook with interactive components performed significantly better on vocabulary tests after the story than the children who just heard the story and looked at the corresponding text. Each child was also compared to his or her own pretest scores, and the children who got the interactive book learned more of the challenging vocabulary words and the basic concept words than the children in the non-interactive book group.
How is this important?
While the interactive reading can provide a template for parents to tailor how they read to their children, it’s not always going to be feasible. In today’s world, there often aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. This automated storybook could be a very useful intervention strategy to help children who are having trouble learning vocabulary. Often, in a preschool environment, it is difficult for children to get one-on-one attention because of classroom demands. These stories can be individualized to each child’s vocabulary and comprehension level, which can give each child the specific help he or she needs. It has also been found that children from lower socioeconomic levels start school having been exposed to significantly less language than children from higher socioeconomic levels. This automated storybook can be a great resource to help close this word gap before Kindergarten.
But didn’t we just have a blog post about a study of electronic toys which came to the conclusion that they’re not as effective as traditional toys and books for promoting language? The important thing to remember is that not all electronic toys are created equal. This automated storyteller helps children’s language development because of its emphasis on interactive reading, compared to one that does not. Interaction was thought to be one of the key components that gave traditional toys their edge, so it makes sense that among electronic toys the ones that focus on interaction fore better than those which do not. Given that there are many electronic toys that claim to promote language, it is important to look critically at which ones are likely to be better than others.
Kelley, E. S., Goldstein, H., Spencer, T. D., & Sherman, A. (2015). Effects of automated Tier 2 storybook intervention on vocabulary and comprehension learning in preschool children with limited oral language skills. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 31, 47-61.