From Print to Digital: The Medium Is Only Part of the Message

  • Mary L. CourageEmail author
Part of the Literacy Studies book series (LITS, volume 18)


Over the past decade, preschool children have had increasing experience with storybooks in an electronic format. These reading sessions are usually guided by an adult who keeps the child’s attention focused as the story unfolds. Occasionally, children are given a tablet or smartphone to operate on their own when the adult is not available to scaffold (e.g., in a car, at a restaurant). Although traditional paper storybooks still dominate the preschooler’s reading experience, the growing availability of e-books has opened a debate on the relative effectiveness of these two book formats for children’s attention and learning. While it is clear that preschoolers are very attentive to, and engaged in e-books, questions remain about (a) the potential of their interactive features to distract children and diminish learning, (b) the change in the adult-child interaction that occurs during e-book reading compared to traditional book reading, and (c) whether the built-in interactive and multimedia features can replace the traditional role of the adult that occurs in joint reading. The answers to these questions are discussed in relation to three critical variables: the characteristics of the individual child, the content of the e-book material, and the context in which the joint or independent reading occurs.


Attention e-Books Engagement Executive functioning Language Parent-child interaction Preschoolers Story comprehension 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentMemorial UniversitySt. John’sCanada

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