Proof Points: Picture books tend to beat pixels in 39 studies

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By Jill Barshay

When the pandemic is over, many parents of young children will face a dilemma. Should they revert back to printed picture books or continue downloading e-books? Do kids absorb and learn to read more from one format versus the other?
 
A new analysis of all the research on digital picture books, published in March 2021, helps to answer this question.
Read the column
Key Findings 
  • Generally, children posted higher comprehension scores after reading a print version of a picture book compared with a digital version.
  • Digital enhancements, such as games, pop-ups and sounds, can distract children from the narrative storyline. Built-in dictionaries were bad for comprehension, but good for vocabulary development.
  • Digital books can be a better option with nonfiction texts and for building vocabulary.
  • Some digital storybooks were better; researchers found that certain types of story-related extras seemed to boost a child’s comprehension but they were rare.
Parent Takeaway 
  • The slight harm to reading comprehension may be well worth it if the digital books are so engaging that your child reads more books.
  • Actively reading a digital version of a picture book with your child, asking questions and pointing to the pictures, is good for comprehension.
Lit Review 
  1. Furenes MI, Kucirkova N, Bus AG. A Comparison of Children’s Reading on Paper Versus Screen: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research. March 2021.
  2. Clinton, V. (2019) Reading from paper compared to screens: A systematic review and meta‐analysis, Journal of Research in ReadingDelgado, P., Vargas, C., Ackerman, R., Salmerón, L., (2018) Don't throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension, Educational Research Review, ISSN: 1747-938X, Vol: 25, Page: 23-38
  3. Singer, L. M., & Alexander, P. A. (2017). Reading on Paper and Digitally: What the Past Decades of Empirical Research Reveal. Review of Educational Research, 87(6), 1007–1041.
  4. Kaisa Happonen and Anne Vasko (2016).  A Bear Called Mur. See this video to learn more about this immersive digital children’s book.
  5. Best practice design for digital picture books, The International Collective of Research and Design in Children’s Digital Books.
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