Stories presented on phones, tablets and e-readers now offer an alternative to print books. The fundamental challenge has become to specify when and for whom the manner in which children retain information from stories has been changed by electronic storybooks, for better and for worse. We review the effects of digitized presentations of narratives that include oral text as well as multimedia information sources (e.g., animations and other visual and sound effects, background music, hotspots, games, dictionaries) on children's emergent literacy. Research on preschool and kindergarten children has revealed both positive and negative effects of electronic stories conditional upon whether materials are consistent with the way that the human information processing system works. Adding certain information to electronic storybooks can facilitate multimedia learning, especially in children at-risk for language or reading difficulty. Animated pictures, sometimes enriched with music and sound, that match the simultaneously presented story text, can help integrate nonverbal information and language and thus promote storage of those in memory. On the other hand, stories enhanced with hypermedia interactive features like games and "hotspots" may lead to poor performance on tests of vocabulary and story comprehension. Using those features necessitates task switching, and like multitasking in general, seems to cause cognitive overload. However, in accordance with differential susceptibility theory, well-designed technology-enhanced books may be particularly suited to improve learning conditions for vulnerable children and turn putative risk groups into successful learners. This new line of research may have far-reaching consequences for the use of technology-enhanced materials in education.
- cognitive overload
- differential susceptibility
- multimedia learning
- technology-enhanced storybooks