By Story Star correspondent Elinor Rees
A study conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop in America has investigated the way children relate to stories they read in print versus those on an e-reader.
The researchers wanted to see how technology might alter parent-child storytelling and found that those children who read advanced e-books recalled significantly fewer narrative details than those who read the print version of the same story, although most of the children performed equally as well when asked to explain a crucial part of the story. The e-books also prompted less content-related discussion and thus didn’t support the benefits of co-reading as much as print versions, but the e-books did engage the children more and encouraged more physical interaction.
Those involved in the study have suggested that creators of e-books should be very cautious when creating the books, especially elements that do not relate specifically to the story, and perhaps there could be elements that parents can control so that they can alter how they read with their children.
This research has been conducted at the perfect time, a seeming rarity when it comes to technology, as the presence of e-books on the marekt is on the increase and it is important to know the effects they will have on children’s literacy as soon as possible.
E-books definitely engage children, which is a huge positive, and this should be continued; but it is also important that designers have now been made aware that some elements of their designs could have detrimental effect on children.
Young children need gripping stories or they will quickly lose interest and then they won’t learn the fantastic new words and ways of storytelling that their chosen book will provide. E-books tap in to this generation’s continued love of video games and television and so it’s easy to see why they are successful but if they simply add to this world and don’t keep the literature as its key function then they may as well not bother with the words at all.
Story books have always had pictures to help children understand a story and moving images are just an advancement of this, but they are there to support the story and not to drown in out. Perhaps if the images were to help pronounce new words or to explain them they would both be visually appealing for the children and educational at the same time.
Technology is often viewed as an evil that we should be growing more and more scared of but if we harness it correctly it can be a brilliant asset to our children’s lives and education. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center study should be used as a piece of advice before e-book designers and publishers get so ahead of themselves that they face a horrid back lash from parents and educators across the globe for not teaching their children what books are supposed to. This is a study to help study and that is how we must use it.