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Parent-Child Reading Interactions: Print Books vs. E-Books

On May 29, the Cooney Center released "Print Books vs. E‑books" a report that outlines the results of research exploring parent‑child interactions as they read print or digital books together. The report is part of the Cooney Center research team’s effort to explore e-books through a series of what they have called QuickStudies, a format of research aimed to help the Center quickly determine what warrants further investigation.

For this study the research team observed families reading both basic e‑books, which are essentially print books put into a digital format with minimal features like highlighting text and audio narration, and enhanced e‑books, which feature more interactive multimedia options like games, videos and interactive animations. The study participants were 32 pairs of parents and their 3‑6‑year‑old children at the New York Hall of Science's Preschool Place.  Each pair read a print book and either an enhanced or basic e‑book while researchers videotaped their interactions and took observational notes. Following the co‑reading task, researchers interviewed parents about their reading practices.

The QuickStudy’s main finding was that there are measurable differences between the ways parent-child pairs interacted with print, basic, and enhanced formats. The enhanced format tended to elicit less content related interaction and more non-content related interaction (e.g. "Don't touch that yet.") than the print and basic formats, which may have affected how much the children recalled from the story. However, the researchers emphasize that these results do not mean that enhanced e-books do not have a role to play, particularly since the children in the study loved interacting with them.

The researchers did conclude, however, that developers and parents need to carefully consider the purpose of an e-book when designing and or selecting it. They advise that developers think more critically about why certain interactions are built into an e-book. Parents are advised to be mindful of which kinds of formats they desire for specific times and purposes, whether it is for "fun" or to build literacy skills. For building literacy skills, print books and basic e-books may be a better choice.

The report authors are Cynthia Chiong, Jinny Ree, Lori Takeuchi, and Ingrid Erickson. 

Photo credit: Clipart.com

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