University of Tasmania
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Digital texts for shared reading : effects on early literacy

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:42 authored by McNab, KF
Seminal and contemporary research demonstrates that emergent literacy skills are extremely important in establishing positive education trajectories. Digital reading capabilities such as those afforded by iPads and other tablet devices may play an important role in developing early reading skills, particularly if families are empowered to exploit the unique features of digital texts to support their children's literacy development. Digital reading on iPads provides an alternative to reading traditional print texts, and for some children a preferred method of learning to read and enjoy books. This study has focussed on an examination of the effects of a one-to-one digital book reading intervention on children's early literacy development and families' shared reading practices. Further, the lived experience of the children reading digital texts, as conveyed by their parents, and the effects of these reading behaviours on the children's literacy development was of particular interest. The research examined if and how children and parents used the interactive features in the digital books to support children's literacy development. Three main areas of interest were examined: how parents in low socio-economic status schools were using digital books with their children; the effects of reading digital texts on young children's early literacy development; and the effects of facilitating a two-way knowledge exchange group for parents. The study involved three distinct phases and two schools. Phase one involved a survey designed to gather baseline data about children's shared and independent reading practices and families' ownership of digital technologies to support reading. Phase two, the pilot study, involved 24 families from the same two primary schools situated in low socio-economic areas of Tasmania. Families from one school formed the intervention group and read digital books on iPads. Families from the second school formed the comparison group and read the same books in traditional paper-text based formats. Children were assessed pre-intervention (T1) and six weeks later at post-intervention (T2) against a battery of standardised literacy tests. A receptive vocabulary instrument designed by the researcher, McNab Picture Vocabulary Test [MPVT] Form 1, (McNab, 2012) was administered to test topical vocabulary from the texts employed in the intervention. The phase two results showed that the digital reading group made similar and significant progress to the comparison group on measures of receptive vocabulary, expressive vocabulary, phonological abilities and concepts about print. This finding supports the case that the use of digital books by themselves does not disadvantage or advantage children's early reading development. The parent interview information identified that the parents still needed direction on how to effectively use the digital features of the e-books particularly in terms of having the children read along with the text. Parents also need to be aware that that there is still an important role for them to share the e-book reading experience with their children and to continue to explore and review the e-text. Phase three involved eight families from one of the schools. All families received digital books on iPads to read with their children. Families participated in two-way knowledge exchange sessions where they were given opportunities to discuss with the researcher and other participants their experience of reading digital books on iPads. Families also received information about dialogic reading and the mechanics of reading digital books on iPads. Children's literacy development was assessed pre- (T1) and post-intervention (T5) and monitored during the ten-week intervention (T2, T3 and T4). The phase three results also demonstrated that the children made significant gains on measures of receptive vocabulary, expressive vocabulary, phonological abilities and concepts about print. The two-way knowledge exchange sessions between the researcher and with the parents had a positive influence on the parents' perceptions of the digital shared reading intervention. The overall findings from this study have application to home and school support early reading programmes. Digital books do have a place in children's early reading development but they need to be seen as a component and not as a replacement for the parent and the teacher dialogue with the child around the shared book reading experience. The families in this study appreciated and benefited from the two-way knowledge exchange and they reported that they were more confident about using the special features of digital books and more confident about their role in the shared book activities and experiences with their children.


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Copyright 2016 the Author

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