Should We Animate eBooks to Boost Childhood Reading Abilities?

Adapt or perish. It’s a rule that applies universally to everything. But how does this rule stack up against something as essential as child education? What happens when education doesn’t adapt? Does it just die off?

If you follow me closely, then you know that Reading Comprehension and child education is a cause I care greatly about.

64% of all eighth-grade students are unable to read proficiently. Further, 82% of black students and 77% of Hispanic students are not reading proficiently.

Solving the Literacy Crisis

The vast majority of students are entering high school far below the reading abilities they should have. This is why I love the idea of innovating education plans to reflect the current zeitgeist. That’s why this recent study around animated books was so fascinating to me:

A study out today in the journal Developmental Psychology suggests that animated text could make e-books superior to physical books.

The experiment tested comprehension and recall after one group of children read a paper version of the books, comparing the results with those from children who read on an iPad while the e-books “listened” to kids sound out words and animated them when a child said them correctly.

In the study, children who read a traditional paper book recalled 47% of what they read. The digital version of the book with vocabulary that danced to life when pronounced correctly boosted reading recall level to 60%.

Tanya Basu, MIT Technology Review

Animated eBooks pose an interesting way of engaging new readers. But not without possible distractions.

On one hand, we’re at a crisis and seriously need to make new ways for kids to learn to read. On the other hand, does this send the wrong message of augmenting basic learning with tech? Should we actually prioritize teaching kids to have patience and attention?

There’s no right answer. But we definitely could use a larger pool of solutions.

Other solutions I’ve mentioned before:

Try researching Reading Tech companies and see how many you can find… It’s not many. Yet, there are more companies selling college-level courses on the Internet than the world needs. I’d like to see more investment in improving the youth’s foundational skills. 

Ultimately, a country that cannot read is a country that cannot grow.

We should all be brainstorming on prompts such as: How can we teach reading skills on live-streaming platforms like Twitch? How can we use TikTok to inspire kids to go and read something… anything?

ReadByZoe, for instance, has started doing live reading sessions on YouTube and Instagram. A few teachers in Maryland and California are bringing TikTok into the classroom by asking their students to demonstrate what they learned by making TikTok videos.

Boring solutions to these prompts won’t cut it. We need to elevate the lessons so that they can stand alongside Ninja gaming on Fortnite. It’s a tough competition. But our future is at stake.