Study Compares Enhanced to “Standard” Children’s eBooks

Last month, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (named for the Sesame Street early learning visionary) released the results of a “quick study,” a small, exploratory study pairing parents and young children for “co-reading” experiences with print books, regular eBooks, and interactive or “enhanced” eBooks.

The study had three exploratory questions:

  • What is the nature of parent-child and child-book interactions when reading each of the three formats?
  • How does child engagement with the story vary across the three formats?
  • How does child comprehension of the story vary across the three formats (p. 3)?

Each parent-child pair read:

  • a print book and a standard eBook, or
  • a print book and an enhanced eBook.

The results were fascinating, indicating that enhanced eBook reading — one in which you might be able to swipe or otherwise interact with illustrative elements — has significantly less comprehension involved the standard eBook. From page 1 of the report:

The basic e-book elicited similar levels of content related actions (e.g., labeling, pointing, and verbal elaboration of story features) from the children and parents as its print counterpart, whereas the enhanced e-book drew out fewer content related
actions than its print counterpart.
Both types of e-books, but especially the enhanced e-book,
prompted more non-content related actions (e.g., behavior or device focused talk, pushing hands away) from children and parents than the print books.
The basic e-book elicited similar levels of content related actions (e.g., labeling, pointing, and verbal elaboration of story features) from the children and parents as its print counterpart, whereas the enhanced e-book drew out fewer content related actions than its print counterpart.
Both types of e-books, but especially the enhanced e-book, prompted more non-content related actions (e.g., behavior or device focused talk, pushing hands away) from children and parents than the print books.

As we move forward with digital content, this small, preliminary study is important to keep in mind. The more interactive distractions a text holds, the more distracted from content the reader is likely to be.

For more on choosing eBooks for your library, check out Samantha Roslund’s April 2012 article in School Library Monthly, “Sharpening the Digital Nose: Evaluating eStorybooks.”



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