Enabling Early Literacy

    The Cloud Primer is a new iteration of the TinkRBook idea developed by Angela Chang LINK. Interactive storytelling experiences on a tablet are supported through textual tinkerability, allowing young readers to become more physically active and expressive as they explore reading.
    The Baby Duck story was updated and improved. A full Tinkerbook Engine with reusable components, data collection hooks, and new interaction design ideas were incorporated–such as a visual dictionary. The data hooks allowed us to capture how children used the app, which we could use to assess children’s engagement and exploration of the app. New apps, such as matching games, can be built with the new Tinkerbook Engine.
    The improved Baby Duck app was one of the most popular deployed as part of the Global Literacy Project. It has been used by children all over the world, including in Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, India, Bangladesh and at-risk communities in the US.
    This project was funded by the NSF, and was done in collaboration with the Curious Learning global literacy project and WPI.

    Maryanne Wolf
    Stephanie Gottwald
    Robin Morris
    Sonia Chernova
    Adrian Boteanu
    Fardad Faridi
    The development and evaluation of the cloud primer was funded by NSF HCC Award 1116057

    Dialogic reading is a powerful technique that uses conversation between adults and children during story-reading activities to help facilitate language development and emergent literacy. This kind of scaffolding often takes the form of questions or prompts, such as fill-in-the-blank questions, recall questions, open-ended prompts to encourage children to respond in their own words, what, where, and why questions, and more.
    We conducted an experiment to test whether adding a new character to the storybook who asked these kinds of dialogic questions could improve children’s literacy learning outcomes.
    We compared the original storybook with no question-asking character to a character who either asked crowdsourced questions or expert-crafted questions.
    88 children ages 4-8 were recruited from the Boston area to participate in the study.

    Adding a character who asked dialogic reading questions significantly increased engagement, number of vocabulary words used, and dialogic reading behaviors. The expert prompts increased engagement more than the crowdsourced prompts. Dialogic reading behaviors including taking turns in the conversation, parents asking more questions, encouraging generation of language and critical thinking about the story.
    The addition of expert prompts to the story led parents and children to spend more time reading the story together and talking about the story. When the prompts did not appear, the dyads tend to talk about behavior-related topics. More of their utterances were unrelated to the story and were more about the context around the interaction itself, indicating a disengagement with the story.



    • Boteanu, A., & Chernova, S. (2013, March). Modeling discussion topics in interactions with a tablet reading primer. In Proceedings of the 2013 international conference on Intelligent user interfaces (pp. 75-84). ACM.
    • A. Chang, D. Nunez, T. Roberts, D. Sengeh, & C. Breazeal (2013) Pre-pilot findings on developing a literacy tablet. IDC, pp. 471-474 [PDF]
    • David Nuñez, GlobalLit: a platform for collecting, analyzing, and reacting to children’s usage data on tablet computers. 2015. S. M. Media Arts and Sciences, MIT. [PDF]


    Dialogic prompting from an app encourages parent-child conversation!

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