Storybook Time for Young Children – should a computer replace the adult story teller?

Storybook time is a common parent-child interaction.  It can be great fun!  So, should a computer replace us, the adult story teller?

I know this sounds like a ridiculous question but in our world of expanding electronics and self-directed activities for children, the topic represents a reasonable question.  And, knowing the answer can help us do a better job of doing what is “right” for our kids.

In this month’s issue of Frontiers in Psychology, a study looked at this question  –  “Can  the computer replace the adult for storybook reading?”.  This study included 1,272 children aged 3 to 11 years.  The purpose of the study was to determine if the children’s story comprehension and learning of new vocabulary was better with an adult story teller or with a multimedia electronic storyteller.  The study looked at different situations  –
●  an adult reading the story to the child with opportunities to explain the meaning of various words or concepts (the term for this is “adult scaffolding”).
●  the child reading the story without adult scaffolding.
●  the child (with adult scaffolding) interacting with the multimedia story which had features like animated illustrations, background music and sound effects.
●  the child (without adult scaffolding) interacting with the multimedia story which had features like animated illustrations, background music and sound effects.

OK, we are following the question here…  Does adult scaffolding matter in these different circumstances?

The study results give us these answers:
●  Multimedia stories read by the child without an adult were of equal benefit as a traditional story read to the child by an adult.
●  Multimedia stories are more beneficial for story comprehension and word learning than traditional print story reading if no adult is involved (no adult scaffolding).
●  When the multimedia story included embedded interactive features like hot spots and games, the child’s story comprehension goes down.

In simple language, if you read a story to your child and help them understand new words and concepts, or if you provide your child with a well-designed multimedia story, the results for learning new words and understanding the story is the same.  Either option is a good one!!  That is worth knowing …

The study also had this to say –  “The presence of an adult does not have advantages for story comprehension and vocabulary learning beyond multimedia books but may have other outcomes of book sharing.  Children’s reading motivation and attitude might be more facilitated by reading print books with an adult.  The parent-child relationship and children’s socio-emotional development may benefit from sharing and discussing stories together.”

So, whether you prefer to read an actual book with your child … or help them get set-up with a quality multimedia story experience  …. it will be good for him or her.   You’ll design the best plan for your family.  Yes, being a parent is a lot of work … and worth every bit of it!  The End.

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