Digital books provide many tools for readers, such as note-taking, pronunciation guides, online dictionaries and highlighting. Several researchers have examined students’ use of digital reading tools in traditional ebooks. These digital books are not multimedia books, but rather flat text such as that accessed through a Kindle, computer or other basic e-reader. Larson (2009) explored how a small group of 5th graders responded to literature using a variety of annotation tools available through using computer-based e-books. All of the students used a variety of e-book tools to respond to the text, such as the highlighter and note tools. Their responses ranged from tracking characters names to noting passages to discuss with the class to asking questions about a character’s motivations. All of the students reported preferring reading e-books over traditional books by the end of the study. These results are consistent with other studies, such as Massey, Weeks and Druin (2005), that have found that children use digital tools to respond to text when asked by a teacher or researcher. Larson (2010) confirmed these results with a small-scale qualitative study of two second graders reading on Kindles. Both students regularly used the note-taking features available on the Kindle, adjusted the font size, accessed the built-in dictionary, and activated the built-in text-to-speech feature to listen to challenging words or passages.
It is clear that students are interested in reading digital texts and can use many of the features included. An essential question for educators must be whether these digital texts help students understand what they read. More specifically, how does the inclusion of multimedia elements impact reading comprehension?
Here's a brief video presentation from Lotta Larson about digital reading and the electronic reading workshop. It is very nice to hear the author talking about this research in person. This is part of the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacies (JAAL), and I'm assuming it's posted for a conference session held by the International Reading Association's 54th Annual Convention.
Lotta Larson: JAAL Digital Literacies Chat from Cyndi Danner-Kuhn on Vimeo.
Larson, L.C. (2009). e-Reading and e-responding: New tools for the next generation of readers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(3), 255-258.
Larson, L.C. (2010). Digital readers: The next chapter in e-book reading and response. The Reading Teacher, 64(1), 15-22.