Study uncovers negative effects of enhanced e-books on language development
A study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center has found that children and parents who read enhanced e-books together performed more actions that are not related to the content of the story than children and parents who co-read regular or unenhanced e-books. Specifically, non-content interactions are behaviors or words that talk about the device, not the story, such as pushing hands away or discussion about elements other than the narrative.
Why is this significant? Experts generally believe that co-reading is beneficial for children because it encourages language development. When reading traditional books together, adults frequently ask questions about the text and pictures. Those questions prompt children to talk. The more talk, the bigger the vocabulary and the faster a child develops the hang of language.
So if enhanced e-books aren’t promoting conversations between parents and children, that is seen as a negative.
Those of us at E-booksAndKids.com value research like this, but we warn against making a blanket statement that enhanced e-books are not good for child development. What this study didn’t seem to do, however, is test other skills that enhanced e-books may be encouraging. So kids talk less when reading enhanced e-books. But what else are they doing? Are they feeling like they have a little control over the outcome of the story? How can that affect development? Are they trying to press buttons, then trying and trying again to develop persistence?
This new medium will come with its own set of benefits and pitfalls. Let’s not judge new technology as if it is exactly the same as other media.
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center is an independent research organization that is dedicated to advancing children’s learning in this digital age. Forty or so years ago, their work led to the creation of the PBS series Sesame Street which had significant educational influence on the generations that followed. We appreciate their research efforts and encourage more studies that show the full range of influences of e-books and enhanced e-books on children and learning.