Mar 18, 2022 2022-03-18
By Dorka Horvath
Children appear to be constantly connected to digital devices. The ability of smartphones, tablets, and game consoles to command attention and maintain engagement has not gone unnoticed by educators. As a result, digital learning tools are becoming increasingly prevalent in the classroom, helping teachers foster engagement, concentration, and comprehension.
The centerpiece of digital technology for literacy are ebooks, or more precisely enhanced ebooks. Both traditional and enhanced ebooks are electronic books that can be viewed on a computer or via apps on tablets. However, while traditional ebooks are digital prints of page-based books that provide the same kind of reading experience from a printed book, enhanced ebooks offer a higher level of reader engagement and interactivity. Enhanced ebooks, for example, often feature a narrator reading the story or dialogue provided by character voices, along with animation, music, sound effects, and buttons on the screen that link to games or other built-in learning applications.
Current enhanced ebooks go far beyond merely digitizing pages—they employ an array of interactive multimedia content technologies designed to bring stories alive. Animation, game play—and even advanced applications such as built-in dictionaries and highlighted text as the narrator reads—are among the many state-of-the-art applications that engage children in an immersive reading experience.
Interactive ebook features help children with reading comprehension and nurture their ability to recall story details. Supportive elements, such as music and sound effects, improve a child’s ability to understand characters and plot developments. Convenient and accessible, ebooks can be enjoyed by children independently and repeatably. For children with developmental delays, ebooks provide audio narration to improve vocabulary while other interactive elements provide support and encouragement.
Today’s cutting-edge ebook technologies empower young readers to interact with storylines and characters and share their experiences with others. Through ebooks, students can see words and hear pronunciations, actively participate in sentence construction, and collaborate with classmates. Students can learn, practice, and continuously review through game play. They can make their own narrative choices. They can go on virtual field trips and experience stories firsthand.
Ebooks provide readers with instant error corrections and other forms of feedback. They guide students throughout the entire reading process to help them comprehend the story. Ebooks help children regard reading as an adventure. Instead of being a chore, reading becomes a choice.
In a study focusing on integrating ebooks into the classroom, the Center for Literacy at the University of Akron found that ebooks were successful in helping children identify words, achieve higher levels of comprehension, and further retention. At the same time, enhanced ebooks that feature multimedia content, such as animation, game play, music, and other interactivity elements, further improved children’s vocabulary skills and recall.
For beginning readers, the interactivity of ebooks helps promote comprehension while touchscreen buttons can hone motor skills. Ebooks can also offer a more rewarding experience for start-up readers, delivering real-time guidance with vocabulary. Ebooks can adapt to each child’s learning style and help them progress accordingly.
A cornerstone objective in literacy education is to help students make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. It’s time to look at ebooks as serious learning vehicles for literacy.
Dorka Horvath is CEO and cofounder of BOOKR Kids, a reading-based edutainment tool to help kids acquire better native and second language skills. BOOKR Kids was designed to engage and delight the youngest learners in reading, with the belief that reading makes a better future possible for every kid.
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Zucker, The Children’s Learning Institute in Texas.