Enhanced eBooks and Their Role in Early Reading
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a leading organization studying the ways in which 21st-century technology can help (and potentially harm) early learning, recently released the findings of a study on the divide between print books, ebooks, and "enhanced" ebooks, their flashy, attention-grabbing counterparts. Ignoring the misleading headline (the problem isn't whether or not children benefit more from print books rather than ebooks) the study is a great look at how we have to be careful when we add glitz and glamor to the materials we use in pre-K and elementary classrooms.
To sum up the results, the ebooks containing animations, video clips, sound, etc. were less beneficial to adults and children reading together. As you can imagine, reading these ebooks is fun and if your goal is to get a child to become interested in the process of reading, they're great! I've seen a few of the classic childrens books ported over to iPads and other tablets and they look and sound awesome... in many cases, they are the physical representations of the details I would add to a story as I was reading it. My imagination at work, brought to life on the screen. But that's part of the problem... the study found that content-related actions between the child and their reading partner decreased, and the focus quickly became the moving parts themselves.
This shouldn't be surprising to anyone, but I don't think the alarms need to be raised just yet. For one reason, any book in the hands of children is better than no book at all. Two, teachers and parents just need to think about their objectives when choosing between print and ebooks. If you're having a tough time dragging a child away from the television, it's quite possible that your "boring" childrens book isn't going to get any attention. But when that book becomes somewhat similar to what they are looking for in television and video games, you're pulling children closer to the ultimate goal of getting them to read something.
The study looks to move on to identifying what elements of enhanced ebooks are the most distracting, as well as which elements actually are beneficial to both engagement AND comprehension.