Are enhanced e-books bad for kids’ reading skills?

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New research from the Sesame Workshop’s Joan Ganz Cooney Center suggests that enhanced e-books’ special features can be distracting both to young kids and to their parents reading the books with them.

In its latest “quick report” (PDF), the Cooney Center studied 32 child-parent pairs. The kids were all between 3 and 6 years old. Half the pairs read a print book and a regular e-book and the other half read a print book and an enhanced e-book (defined as an e-book with “enhanced multimedia experiences” like games and other interactive features, and the focus of reading apps like Scholastic’s Storia and Ruckus Reader).

Kids who read enhanced e-books remembered “significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story.”

And “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.” This will be familiar to anyone who has ever used an iPad with a kid (or adult) and pointed out a cool iPad-related feature.

The Cooney Center recommends that “parents and preschool teachers should choose print or basic e-books to read with children if they want to prioritize literacy-building experiences over ones intended ‘just for fun,'” and says enhanced e-book designers should “exercise caution when adding features to enhanced e-books, especially when those features do not directly relate to the story.”

It also notes that enhanced e-books can be a good tool to “prompt less motivated young readers toward engagement when they might otherwise avoid text altogether.”

via Digital Book World

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