A new study has established that digital books are likely to harm young kids’ learning because of the inferior print version. The study indicates that unless the e-books have enhanced features to content intended for improving comprehension, they are likely to affect learning in children aged 1-8 years.
Digital books can be hard to comprehend for children.
Researchers established that children are less likely to comprehend picture books when reading digital books instead of the print version. Interestingly the digital books can outperform print versions when they have the right enhancements enforcing story content. The study authors analyzed results from 39 studies that comprised over 1,812 kids aged 1-8 years. The researchers compared vocabulary learning and story comprehension when children read a book online versus on paper in their analysis. The study’s focus was story-related enhancements in e-books, the role of adult support, and dictionary presence. Most of the studies analyzed were conducted between 2010 and 2019, more so in the last four years.
Study co-author Natalia Kucirkova, an early childhood development professor at the University of Stavanger in Norway, said that the availability of e-books and the rich tradition of kids’ print books requires an understanding of which is the best-suited format for children. Natalia said that they established that when the book’s digital and print versions were the same and differed on the voice-over, then print versions were better.
Digital devices and enhancements in e-books can affect comprehension in children
She indicated that digital devices and enhancements not related to the story tend to interfere with comprehension. However, when digital enhancements designed to enhance the ability to make sense of the narrative, digital books outweighed the device’s negative effects and story comprehension. Natalia added that the study findings highlight the low-quality enhancement currently available for children’s e-books. Most digitized picture books are inferior to print versions, but many young children are using them widely. Natalia warns that if we can support all children, it is paramount to understand the impact of e-books and enhance their quality.