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19 February 2015

Interactivity in E-books Increases Vocabulary

Keywords: learning, reading, Western Europe, computer, education, iPad, kids, tablet,

A study in Applied Psycholinquistics investigates whether interactive e-books stimulate word learning and story comprehension in children. The study shows that children's vocabulary increase more when reading interactive e-books compared to reading non-interactive e-books. Children learn even more words when these interactive e-books contain an integrated feature that provides definitions of difficult words when clicked on.

Take aways

  • Previous research, showed that interactivity in e-books diverts both parents and children from the content of the book.
  • However, this study shows that children learn more words when the interactive elements in e-books link directly to the narrative.
  • Children gain even more in vocabulary when animated e-books provide the definition of difficult words.
  • The animated and interactive elements do not affect children’s understanding of the stories.
  • These findings reveal that interactive e-books –only when these features match the story– can stimulate children’s vocabulary. 

Study information

  • The question?

    Do interactive e-books stimulate word learning and story comprehension? And does this further increase by including word definition?
  • Who?

    136 4-to 6-year-old children (mean age: 63 months old; 50% were boys)
  • Where?

    The Netherlands
  • How?

    The researchers divided the children into four groups. In the static e-books group, children read e-books in which static pictures were accompanied by an oral reading of the text. In the animated e-books group, children read animated e-books in which animated illustrations including motion, music, and sound (e.g., a motor humming or crackling fire) were accompanied by an oral reading of the text. In the interactive animated e-books group, children read animated e-books in which the oral reading of the text was interrupted to provide a definition of a difficult word when clicked on.

    Within a four-week period, children read four different e-books of which each storybook was read four times in total. All children, including those in the fourth no-exposure group (who didn’t read the e-books) answered questions that measured their comprehension and understanding of the narrative and completed a vocabulary test.

Facts and findings

  • Repeated reading of the e-books increased the vocabulary of the children.
  • Children gained most in vocabulary after reading the interactive animated e-books in which the definition of difficult words was provided.
  • However, children who read the (non-interactive) animated e-books learned more words than those who read the e-books containing static pictures.
  • The authors gave the following explanation for this finding: the purpose of the animated features in the e-books were to attract the children’s attention to elements that were mentioned in the narrative. This may have facilitated word learning because it reduced the amount of effort that is required to match pictures to the story while reading.
  • The e-books including animations and/or interactivity were neither beneficial nor disadvantageous for children’s comprehension and understanding of the narratives.