According to a new study, digital books have some advantages over conventional books when it comes to making children remember their content. Animations, especially those aimed at verbal interactions, can significantly improve the retrieval of story details – but must be done correctly.
The study by psychologist Erik Thiessen of Carnegie Mellon University examined the recall of 30 children aged 3 to 5 years after reading either an ordinary book or a book with animations for each page.
When asked what they remember, the children who saw the animated book tended to remember 15-20% more. The best results were achieved when the book was animated when the child said or asked something about it (although this had to be done manually by the reading adult), and not just automatically.
"Children learn best when they are more involved in the learning process," explained Thiessen in a CMU news article. "Many digital interfaces are poorly suited to children's ability to learn, but if we can improve them, children can learn better."
This is not to say that all books should be animated for children. Traditional books will always have their own advantages, and once you are through the picture book phase, these digital innovations won't help much.
Rather, it should be shown that digital books can be useful and are not a senseless addition to a children's library. However, it is important that digital functions are created and fine-tuned to improve learning, and research needs to be done into how best to achieve this.
Thiessen's study was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.