Posted March 23, 2017 – AWE Learning Staff
As technology evolves and plays an increased role in our everyday lives, e-books have become more widely used. An e-book is a book in an electronic format that is downloaded to a computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other digital device. The appearance of each page on the screen resembles that of a printed book; when applicable, it can include page numbers, table of contents, pictures, and graphics. The ease of access to e-books makes them a popular alternative to printed books. Additionally, e-books take up less space, are portable, and often include interactive features.
E-books have numerous benefits for young learners. The inclusion of interactive features can be valuable when building early literacy skills. Many e-books for early learners offer the ability to highlight words while the narration is read aloud. According to Digital Book World, this draws the child’s eye to each individual word. The result is a focus on a word for a longer period of time than if the story was simply read aloud to them. This helps young learners develop the understanding that sounds can be represented symbolically through writing.
There are some key features that characterize an e-book as high quality and beneficial for early learners. According to The Hanen Centre, quality e-books include:
- Pictures and interactive ‘hotspots’ to better help early learners comprehend the plot and content of the story
- Games and interactive features should only be active after the narrator has finished reading the page, keeping the early learner focused on the text, rather than the activities offered
- The words are highlighted as the narrator reads them to better familiarize the reader with the pronunciation of the words
- A dictionary or link on the page that provides a description of challenging and unfamiliar words in order to build the early learner’s vocabulary
- Forward and backward buttons familiarizes the child with turning pages and left-to-right reading
- Option to repeat the narration of a page to help build comprehension
The various enhancements of e-books help to cater to early learners with varying learning styles. For example, according to The School Run, the ability to change the size of the text makes e-books easier to read, specifically for children who may have educational needs or visual processing disorders. When early learners have a higher level of comfort with reading, they will gain the tools necessary to develop their early literacy skills.
Classrooms, libraries, and other community learning centers strive to provide valuable literacy resources to their visitors, and often face challenges due to lack of space. E-books help solve this challenge, as devices can have multiple books downloaded onto them. They offer a fun and interactive environment to build early literacy skills. Particularly for children, e-books give the opportunity to listen to stories and interact on STREAM content that includes vocabulary above their reading level.