American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting
Theme: Leveraging Educational Research in a “Post-Truth” Era: Multimodal Narratives to Democratize Evidence
April 5-9, 2019
Title: Reading in a Community: How Social Affordances of an eBook Platform Motivate Children to Read (Paper)
Session: Improving Literacy Through Digital Scaffolding
Authors: Ying Xu, Congqing Wang, Joanna Yau, Hou Han, Mark Warschauer
Abstract: An extended amount of engaged leisure reading is critical for children to improve reading ability. Children read leisurely for different purposes, including the desire to participate in meaningful social interactions around reading.The affordances of technology may offer novel and ubiquitous ways to socialize around reading. This paper introduces and examines an ebook platform incorporating social features that allow students to read in a virtual community with their teachers and classmates. Specifically, teachers may recommend books to students. Students may follow their friends and view their recent reading progress.
The theoretical foundation of this study is grounded in the notion that reading is a social act (Gee, 2015). This line of work suggests that reading is more than a solitary cognitive process bound to a private and somewhat intimate domain, but rather a joint social process where readers actively engage with and are influenced by the other actors in an open society (Wigfield, Gladstone, & Turci, 2016). This social relatedness can be a critical motivator of reading (Sweet, Guthrie, & Ng, 1998). Children who avidly read in their leisure time tend to see themselves as members of a reading community that interacts socially around books (Strommen & Mates, 2004) and also see reading experience as part of their social life (Strommen & Mates, 2004).
The participants in the study were 392 incoming second and third grade students (49.1% female, mean age = 7.8 years) from two schools in an affluent city located in China's southern coast. Participants were given access to the platform for 60 days during their summer break. They could freely explore 2000 age-appropriate picture books on the platform and engage with their teachers and classmates.
Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected to examine the usability and effectiveness of this platform. Children’s usage of the platform was retrieved from the user-log data. Children’s reading motivation and reading ability were assessed before and after the intervention using validated scales. A paper-based survey, followed by a semi-structured interview with a subset of 25 participants, was conducted to understand how these young users perceived the social features of the platform.
Overall, children read 1.2 books and used the platform for an average of 37.7 minutes per day. A paired t-test suggested that children’s reading motivation was enhanced after the intervention (p < .05), while reading ability was not found to increase (p = 0.12). The survey results indicated that a majority of children (75%) perceived the social features to be fun and helpful, and most (94%) were interested in continuing their use of the platform. The semi-structured interview revealed that children may read more with this platform for the following reasons: desire to learn from peers and teachers, maintaining friendships, and engaging in competition with peers.
In summary, this work presents a socially interactive environment that leverages the affordances of technology to support the children’s reading motivation during elementary years. We demonstrate that social features are effective in promoting elementary students’ leisure reading engagement.