Children’s Learning

That question has gnawed at Adriana Bus, a professor of education and child studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who has been studying electronic storybooks for more than 15 years. In a recent article in the journal Developmental Review, she recalled some of the worrisome issues she encountered in her first experiments with 4- and 5-year-old children. One experiment, in the year 2000, centered on 15-minute reading sessions with P.B. Bear’s Birthday Party, a children’s book by Lee Davis (1998). Back then, children were using a CD-ROM version of the book on a desktop computer. The CD-ROM provided children two options: they could have the book read to them, or they could press the Playtime button to play matching games, puzzles, and mazes associated with the book.
When children chose Playtime, they were certainly engaged. But it was what they were engaged in that troubled Bus. “Most children completely ignored the oral text and just played games and activated the animations,” she wrote. “Insofar as they listened to the story text, they did not listen to the pages in order.” Often they were simply hearing text fragments in a seemingly random order that was disconnected from the visualizations (Bus, Takacs, & Kegel 2015).
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