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Mandarin eBook App and Children’s Home Reading Quantity, Quality, and Emergent Literacy Outcomes

Updated: Oct 29, 2019

(2019- 2022 )

Project introduction: Touchscreen devices have been widely used by 1-7 years old children at home in Singapore (Ebbeck, Yim, Chan, & Goh, 2016), however, little is known about the efficacy of the educational Apps for children’s early intellectual development. An eBook App has the potential to increase children’s reading amount as it provides easy access to books and facilitates reading comprehension and motivation with multimedia features (Smith 2001). Moreover, the eBook App could be taken as a platform to offer parents literacy tips to enhance their cognitive, affective, and technical scaffolding during joint reading with their children. The better scaffolding may in turn facilitate children’s early language and literacy development (Segal-Drori, Shamir, & Klein, 2010). The eBook Apps may have a particular social relevance to Singaporean children’s mother tongue language learning. Although children are encouraged to develop their mother tongue languages (MLT) and their English simultaneously in Singapore (Ministry of Education, 2013), recent years have witnessed a discrepancy between English and MTL. The English learning environment is substantially richer than that of ethnic languages in terms of input quantity (e.g., the amount of media exposure), input quality (e.g., the number of books at home) and output (e.g., children’s total years of speaking the language). (Sun, Yin, Amsah, & O’Brien, 2018).

Given the importance of the home setting for preschoolers’ MTL development (Sun et al., 2018; Sun, Ng, Fritzsche & O’Brien, forthcoming) and the potential benefits of using eBook App at home, the current study intends to examine the effects of a popular Mandarin eBook App among Singaporean children for its influence on children’s reading input quantity, quality, and learning outcomes. The purpose of this study is three-fold. We intend to explore: 1) whether the eBook App would promote children’s total reading amount at home; 2) whether the scaffolding tips on literacy, cognitive, affective, and technic scaffolding improve the quality of parents’ interaction while conducting shared book reading; and 3) whether the eBook App and literacy tips promote children’s emergent language and literacy outcomes. 20 preschoolers will be recruited for the pilot study to examine the appropriateness of the App, the book titles, and the parental scaffolding tips. 240 preschoolers (4-5 years old) will be randomly assigned into four reading conditions at home: 1) with eBook App and parental tips, 2) with eBook App only, 3) with paper books and parental tips (control condition 1), and 4) with paper books only (control condition 2). 80 mandarin picture books will be provided via the App to the families in Group 1 and Group 2 over one year. The equivalent paper books will be provided to the families in the control groups. The 240 families will be followed for 14 months in total, to be tested, videoed recorded, and surveyed every 6 months. The outcomes will be parental-child interactions and children’s Mandarin skills, namely vocabulary, storytelling and comprehension, and Chinese character recognition. The current study has strong social relevance. The findings will inform us about the efficacy of eBook App on MTL development and the types of literacy tips we should provide to parents and early educators for better scaffolding children during joint reading. Moreover, it will provide schools and policymakers insights into whether or not to promote such literacy learning devices. Furthermore, it will offer suggestions to eBook App designers to improve their products and optimize the learning result for the children.


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