In their most basic form, children’s ebooks are computer files that act much like a book. They have traditional conventions like a title, pages, and chapters. However, they also can contain illustrations and hotspots that provide a navigation mechanism for the reader. A deeper look at children’s ebooks reveals a more complex form, a type of software that includes animations, sounds, videos, and a read-aloud function.
Early studies suggest that multimedia features in ebooks can improve inference skills in story reading and that game-like interactivity can stimulate story comprehension and word learning, especially when children’s attention is guided to these purposes. Ebooks have also been shown to motivate children to be active readers. When using ebooks, children tend to more naturally investigate words, images and interactives in the reading environment. It seems the ebook may invite play, and this is a powerful motivator for engaging with print. These digital additions to print are different in a manner that is profoundly changing the digital storybook as a piece of early literacy learning.
As teachers begin to incorporate ebooks into their early literacy instruction, it is critical they are aware of the the multimedia functions available in these resources and leverage them to support student learning. It is becoming more common for ebook designers utilize multimedia to aid in word identification. For example, the figure above shows a screen where words are “discoverable” when children tap on them. The tap produces a pop-up screen that introduces the word to the child through an audio pronunciation of the word accompanied by a dictionary definition.
Teachers who incorporate ebooks into their classrooms should introduce this word identification feature and model its use for their students. Children have a tendency to reuse the same method repeatedly for initiating an action, so a minor investment in this instruction can benefit students in an ongoing fashion while helping to support word identification.