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Tablet-Based eBooks for Young Children: What Does the Research Say?

Reich, Stephanie M. PhD; Yau, Joanna C. MA; Warschauer, Mark PhD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: September 2016 - Volume 37 - Issue 7 - p 585–591
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000335
Review Article

Objective: Young children's use of electronic books (eBooks) is increasing as handheld touch screen devices, such as tablets, become increasingly available. Although older children's reading on tablets has been more broadly investigated, less is known about the impacts of digital reading for infant, toddlers, and preschoolers. This review compares the educational affordances of reading on tablets versus print books for young children's learning.

Method: A qualitative synthesis of research on tablet-based eReading and young children's learning from screens was conducted.

Results: When eBooks are designed well, preschool-aged children learn equally well and sometimes more than from print books. However, enhanced eBooks with sounds, animations, and games can distract children and reduce learning. When book-sharing with an adult, conversations during eBook reading are often about the platform while print book conversations are more often about the book content. For young children (0–2 yr), there is a paucity of research, but broader studies on learning from screens suggest limited educational benefits of tablet use for this age group.

Discussion: The authors recommend that (1) the selection of eBooks (especially enhanced eBooks) be thoughtful as games or animations that are not related to the story content can be distracting for young children, (2) adults share in the reading experience as discussions of the story, text, and characters have been found to enhance comprehension, language development, and print awareness, and (3) tablet eBook use be restricted for infants and toddlers, as they benefit more from face-to-face interaction with caregivers than from interactive screens alone.

School of Education, University of California, Irvine, CA.

Address for reprints: Stephanie M. Reich, PhD, School of Education, University of California Irvine, 3200 Education, Irvine, CA 92697-5500; e-mail: smreich@uci.edu.

This review is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant 1218705.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Received February 12, 2016

Accepted May 23, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.