May 19, 2022

New Research Article: Young Children’s Engagement With E-Books at School

The following article full text article appears in the January 2014  (Vol. 4, No. 1) issue of SAGE Open.


Young Children’s Engagement With E-Books at School


Kathleen Roskos
John Carroll University

Karen Burstein
Southwest Institute for Families and Children

Yi Shang
John Carroll University

Emily Gray
John Carroll University


January 2014 (Vol. 4, No. 1)


Differences between digital devices on children’s engagement with e-books are examined. The sample included 24 typical 4-year olds enrolled in Head Start. Over a 1-month period, video captures of children’s multi-sensory behaviors during shared reading at a tabletop touchscreen computer and teacher-facilitated book browsing with iPads and iPods were obtained. Data were coded on each child at 1-min intervals, examining the simultaneity of behaviors present, then aggregated to determine frequencies of each behavior by device and format. Differences between media devices on median percent of observation time were evaluated. Looking, touching, moving, and gesturing behaviors were significantly different among different devices. Large effect sizes indicated considerable variability attributable to the device. Mobiles support more looking and touching but less moving and gesturing than the tabletop touchscreen; none of the devices favored listening over another. Given the role of haptic perception in digital reading experience, access to mobiles may favor behaviors that support literacy motivation, sense of control, and interaction.

For young children, electronic tools will be a chief source of textual information at school and in life. Whether stationary or mobile, the range of electronics from smart boards to hand-held devices already deliver an ever-increasing number of e-books, e-texts, and games. Moreover, the virtual explosion in apps has transformed the traditional storybook of early childhood into a highly interactive, multi-media literacy experience.

Much remains unknown, however, as to the impact of the digital medium on children’s early literacy knowledge, skills, and print motivation. What, for example, do we really know about the ways in which young children interact with these knowledge objects and their content—and do we understand the impact of this new media on the learn-to-read process. Research shows differences in such variables as child regulation skills (Kegel, van der Kooy-Hofland, & Bus, 2009), e-book features (e.g., hotspots; Shamir & Korat, 2009), online tutorial assistance (Kegel & Bus, 2012), and adult mediation (Korat & Shamir, 2007). Even less is known, though, about how these new literacy tools “work” in different activity settings in preschools, that is, how they capture and hold children’s attention to stories and print. In brief, there is much to learn about the digital medium and its tools if we are to make the best use of all that this new age text resource has to offer in the early learning environment.


In this study, we focus on children’s engagement behaviors with electronic devices for e-book reading and browsing by examining the opportunities these tools offer for participation in literacy experience in the preschool classroom. The research asks whether digital tools influence children’s engagement behaviors with e-books and if so in what ways might this be supportive of literacy learning (e.g., listening). Answers along these lines contribute to an understanding of pedagogic principles for early literacy instruction, as well as design features of digital tools.

Direct to Full Text ||| PDF Version of Article (10 pages)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.