Document Type


Publication Date



School of Education Counseling and Psychology in Education


Early years education, Informal learning, Media in education, Mobile learning


Child Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Early Childhood Education | Educational Psychology | Language and Literacy Education


Digital picture books are increasingly available for shared reading but reports on how children engage with them differ depending on the type of measurement used. The purpose of this study was to compare pre-readers’ engagement during print and digital shared reading and test whether engagement mediated the relation between children’s preference, familiarity with the stories, and media experience and their comprehension of the story. Using a within-subjects design with order and book title randomly assigned, we captured electrodermal activity from 83 children aged 3 to 5 years during shared print and digital reading with a researcher. We also asked children which medium they preferred and surveyed their parents about their child’s familiarity with the picture books and weekly digital media experience. Children’s baseline-adjusted electrodermal level was higher at the midpoint of print than digital reading. The level diverged across the course of the story, increasing during the print story and decreasing during the digital story. Preference, familiarity, and digital media experience did not predict electrodermal level, and electrodermal level did not predict story comprehension. However, the duration of weekly digital media exposure positively predicted comprehension of the digital story. The results are consistent with reports that pre-readers, like adults, process digital and print reading differently, even when digital books offer no interactive features. Children do not consistently prefer the medium in which they will be most engaged or learn best. Future research is needed to determine how interactive digital features and interactive co-readers impact this pattern of results.

Publication Title

Computers & Education



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