Interactive e-books to Support Reading

Currently there is very little independent, longitudinal research on the effects of mobile devices and ebooks on learning. Moreover, the research that is available often shows conflicting results (Bacon 2013). “Incorporating technology and media into early education is, by its very nature, an experiment (Guernsey 2014).”

Although engagement and motivation are important elements of learning, development of critical thinking skills and a deep understanding of complex content do not automatically follow with the use of mobile devices and interactive ebooks. Strategic modelling, coaching and support are needed, just as they are with print resources.

Perceived Benefits

Interactive e-books have multimodal features such as sounds, animations, videos, narrations, animated illustrations and embedded vocabulary aids.

  • Increase motivation and engagement in reading
  • Bring stories to life
  • Allow early, emergent and struggling readers to read independently
  • Increase the quantity of books to which students have access
  • enable readers to read any time any place
  • may mitigate some students’ comprehension difficulties
  • reduce cost and need for storage of books
  • are projectable, so books can be easily seen and heard by a large group

Perceived Drawbacks

The “seductive” features of interactive ebooks,, such as video, games, sound and embedded vocabulary aids, that may help motivate and engage, can also act as distractions and reduce children’s practice with decoding and reading comprehension strategies (2013).

  • The device may be used as a babysitter and young children are often expected to read in isolation
  • embedded visual and vocabulary aids may hinder the development  of decoding and reading strategies, such as inferring and visualizing
  • seductive features, such as sound and video may interfere with children’s abilities to attend to and internalize the most important parts of the texts
  • overreliance on read-to-me and dictionary functions disrupt the reading process and slow reading rate
  • prolonged exposure to bright screens can cause eye strain

How parents and teachers can ensure that interactive ebooks enhance student learning

“General strategies such as inferring, predicting, retelling/ summarizing, and comprehension monitoring, as well as most strategies for informational text, lend themselves to transference from print to electronic texts. However, not all strategies are transferable between different types of texts.

bookflix                 tumble

 Suggested practices:

  1. in primary education, child/adult talk and interaction need to be the main focus with ebooks as they are with print books
  2. Not all interactive ebooks are created equal; select ebooks that contain supports, but not too many gimmicks or distractions
  3. Independent reading for young children should continue to be supported with social interaction with adults/peers and not become an isolating activity
  4. Help kids transfer effective print-based reading skills to interactive e-books by modelling as you would with print, example, using decoding strategies to attempt unfamiliar words before using the embedded supports.
  5. Kids would not look up every unknown word in a dictionary when reading a book, so they should not over-rely on dictionary aids, but use them strategically.
  6. Help kids to apply existing comprehension strategies for determining main ideas and relevant information

In Toronto families have free access to Bookflix through their school library and Tumble books through the Toronto Public Library. These books can be read on a tablet. Request passwords from your school or public library.

Check out: NY Times: For their Children, Many ebooks fans insist on Paper


Also, check out this article on audiobooks for kids:

Best Audiobooks for Extended Trips, Age by Age


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