Can kids really learn from e-books?


I don’t know about you, but my students get pumped when I bring out the iPad, even if it involves reading an e-book. But can reading books on a tablet really promote text comprehension compared to good ole’ fashioned story time?

Dore et al. attempted to answer this question. In this study, 4–5-year-old children read the same e-book on an iPad either with their parents, with audio narration, or with only the pictures. All of the children were pre-literate, meaning they were not able to sound out or read any words. The e-book was a no-frills kind of story without any sound effects, hot spots, or games involved.

After reading the book, children were asked to recall and retell the story and answer multiple-choice comprehension questions. When parents were the ones who read the audiobook, the children recalled 20% more story elements and answered 13% more comprehension questions correctly, compared to the audio narration. This means that e-books with audio narration are not an equal replacement for real, live adult narration. This makes sense, because adults are physically present with the child and able to redirect the child’s attention, repeat pages if necessary, ask questions, and relate the story to the child’s own knowledge or interests.

What if an adult isn’t present, though? They found that children who read the e-book with audio narration recalled 40% more story elements than children who looked at the book without any narration.

There are always going to be times when parents need their kids to be occupied while they run an errand or do some chores. As SLPs, occasionally we may need to occupy kids during small group rotations or when parents are late to pick up their child. This study suggests that using e-books with audio narration may be a worthwhile activity for children to complete independently, as they may actually comprehend the content! Yay for technology!


Dore, R.A., Hassinger-Das, B., Brezack, N., Valladares, T.L., Paller, A., Vu, L., Golinkoff, R.M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2018). The parent advantage in fostering children’s e-book comprehension. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 33, 24–33.