From Picture Storybooks to E-books: A New Opportunity Rather Than a Threat?

Children and Screens

The effects of picture storybooks, which combine illustrations and oral narration, may be explained as an example of multimedia learning. E-books include additional features (such as animation) that enhance multimedia learning. Camera movements and motion guide children’s visual attention through the illustrations to emphasize the sequence of events and the relationship between words and images. Education apps (including e-books) also commonly incorporate auditory components. Music and background sounds define characters’ moods, make the mental model of story events more coherent, and reinforce it. The reader hears characters doing what the narration describes. Building upon Paivio’s dual channel model, we may hypothesize that digital enhancements facilitate understanding of narration. Schotz’s integrated model suggests that sound, music, and visual information have similar effects, because they all help to organize and structure a mental model of what the narration describes (and thus, facilitate comprehension). On the other hand, music and background sounds may be using the same auditory channel as oral narration, which may cause auditory masking. This may adversely affect a young listener’s ability to isolate unknown words from the speech stream and learn them from book reading. A meta-analysis of six small studies from five countries tested the effects of animated illustrations, sound, and music. This research extends knowledge of multimedia learning principles that increase the efficacy of digital storybooks for young children.