Digital picture storybooks

Online ‘living books’ combine the traditional storybook with animation and sound. Experts from Leiden University have been exploring their potential, particularly for struggling readers

IN THE NETHERLANDS websites offer digitized versions of recently published, award-winning picture storybooks for three- to six-year-olds. Additional features such as animations, music, and sound not only increase young children’s reading pleasure, but may also support story and text comprehension. Unlike the first generation of “living books” recent additions are designed to dramatize the story text, rather than simply add amusement. For example, in one animated story the “reader” can clearly see the feats of a daredevil dad trying to rescue his son, Tim. The animation directly reflects the narrative, with dad taking enormous risks racing through traffic and jumping from a bridge. Researchers from Leiden University have been exploring ways to make living books interactive, and use children’s responses to adapt content. As the number of living storybooks available on the Internet increases, this type of research is imperative.

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May 2009