The fourth and final presentation in Theme I (How do Parents and Children Engage with eBooks?) was the only talk to concern children with language impairment. The talk, presented by Kathrin Rees, described story-related discourse by parent-child dyads that were enrolled in a therapeutic program for children with language impairments, administered by Jackie Morrison-Visentin. The program was designed to teach parents, in small groups, how to use books to improve their children’s language skills in the home environment. The data that Kathrin presented was taken from video recordings collected during the pretreatment assessment. The assessment included a wordless picture book and an electronic picture book. Mean turn length (measured in number of words, as produced by children) was observed to decline for both children with language impairment and children with typically developing language in this study when the parents switched from the wordless picture book to the iReadwith ebook. The number of questions and comments produced by the parents increased markedly when the parents read the iReadwith book, compared to the wordless paper book. Consequently, the children with typical language increased the number of responses to their parents’ questions and comments. However, the children with language impairment actually reduced the number of responses to their parents’ bids for attention. Therefore it appeared that the animated features of the book that were designed to increase parental use of dialogic reading prompts were effective; at the same time, the animated features of the book that were designed to sustain child engagement interfered with verbal dialogue between parent and child in the dyads involving children with language impairment. This study reinforces the common theme that the outcome of shared reading with ebooks is determined by the intersection of child characteristics, book features and parental behaviors. The appropriate policy responses remain unclear. Should parents of children with language impairment be specifically advised to avoid ebooks? Should parents of children with language impairment be taught to use a different reading style (more parallel talk and fewer dialogic reading prompts)? Should parents of children with language impairment choose simpler ebooks (the infant style books described by Gabrielle Strouse for example?). Quite frankly, we do not know the answers to these questions. Clearly there are many more studies to conduct with this population!
Conference abstract: This presentation addresses the linguistic engagement apparent in the extratextual talk of two groups of parents and preschoolers reading a paper book and an interactive eBook (children with typical language development and children with impaired language).
Conference handout: Rees DigLitMcGill slide upload.