2011. Vol. 2, No. 1, 10-17
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ce.2011.21002
A Formative Study of an E-book Instructional Model in Early
Kathleen Roskos, Karen Burstein, Byeong-Keun You, Jeremy Brueck,
1John Carroll University, Ohio, United States
2Southwest Institute for Families and Children, Scottsdale, United States
3The University of Akron, Akron, United States
Received August 4th, 2010; revised February 7th, 2011; accepted February 12th, 2011.
The electronic book is a rapidly growing alternative to the conventional book even for very young children;
however, empirical studies on e-books as curricular tools in early literacy development and instruction are rare.
Few instructional designs have been developed and tested. This formative study investigates the potential func-
tionality and usability of a prototy pe 4-component e-book instructional model in a small sample of preschool
classrooms. Using qualitative analytic strategies, observational data of its components were examined to identify
salient indicators and design features, and to assess its feasibility. Results yielded design information on each
component: (1) e-book as a quality technology-mediated environment; (2) physical place criteria; (3) engage-
ment indicators; and (4) instructional potential. Strengths and weaknesses of the four-component model design
were identified for purposes of revision and stabilizing the model for further testing in a larger classroom sam-
Keywords: E-books, Preschool, Early Literacy
For nearly everyone, the electronic book is a rapidly growing
alternative to the conventional book even for very young chil-
dren. Most major publishing houses and many major libraries
now offer e-book collections for young children, not to mention
the recent ‘apps’ available from iTunes downloadable to iPods,
iPads and iPhones. What the shift from page to screen might
mean for young literacy learners remains to be seen, although
that the e-book has arrived in their world is abundantly clear.
Equally uncertain is how the e-book ‘fits’ in the pr eschool
classroom as a curricular tool and an instructional resource
(Teale, 2010). Here we are adrift even as e-books for children
spread ever more widely into everyday life. Research is very
needed at this juncture to build an evidence base around
e-books for ‘edutainment’ as well as early literacy education
and to offer principles and methods for e-book pedagogy in
early childhood classrooms.
What We Know
In general, studies of e-book design show that children’s first
e-books are mediocre at best. Examining the technical design of
early childhood e-books, (de Jong & Bus, 2003) developed an
analytic method that rated digital elements of e-book construc-
tion. Coding a corpus of 55 Dutch commercial e-books for
features of multimedia, interactivity, print quality and quality of
“hotspot” click locations, their analysis revealed generally weak
designs in this corpus with many e-books containing low qual-
ity multimedia additions, limited child-text interactivity, and
hotspots irrelevant to the stor y line. Subsequent studies cor-
roborate the lackluster quality of most e-books available for
young children across cultures, reflecting what might be termed
overall ‘garden variety’ design (Roskos, Brueck, & Widman,
2009; Korat & Shamir, 2004).
Still, a growing body of primarily lab-based research points
to the potential of well-designed e-books for supporting and
influencing young children’s emerging literacy skills. In a se-
ries of studies r ooted in Paivio’s dual-coding theory (Pavio,
1986; Verhallen & colleagues, 2006), for example, found that
children lagging in language skills benefited from e-books with
rich visualizations and sounds and music. Redundancies in
these features in the e-book d esign appeared to mobilize chil-
dren’s mental energy and to re-invigorate their mental effort,
which led to improved story comprehension. Other researchers
have obtained similar findings—when e-book design features
draw children’s attention to words, they learn words (Segers,
2009). When design emphasizes emergent literacy skills (e.g.,
phonological awareness), they learn these skills (Shamir &
Korat, 2009). E-books, in sum, show promise as instructional
tools that may go beyond the power of traditional storybooks.
But empirical studies on e-books as curricular resources in
early literacy instruction are presently rare. Although some
preliminary research shows, for example, that kindergarteners
that received mobile device reading interventions profited, de-
monstrating gains in their beginning reading skills (Fishburn,
2008). The problems and educational effects of importing
e-book technology (touch screen computers, interactive white
boards, mobile devices) into the early literacy program in
K. ROSKOS ET AL. 11
classrooms have largely gone unexamined—which is not to say
that practical efforts have not been tried in classrooms.
Description of the Study
E-books will likely be a part of future early childhood class-
rooms, and in light of the thin evidence base on their role in
curriculum and instruction, we undertook a formative study to
investigate what e-book pedagogy for early literacy might look
like in the early childhood classroom (Reigeluth & Frick, 1999).
We approached our research from a design perspective—much
like an engineer—creating a prototype model for implementa-
tion in the classroom and testing it to begin a winnowing proc-
ess that informs the educational design (e-books in preschool
for purposes of early literacy instruction) and identifies design
features that are feasible and preferable in an instructional
model (Collins & Bielaczyc, 2004; Zaritsky, Flowers, Rogers,
& O’Neill, 2003).
At this early stage of prototype creation, we conceptualized
an e-book instructional model that was purposefully un-
der-specified to allow a wide-angle view of what it takes and
what happens when e-book technology is inserted into the pre-
school classroom. The model consists of four components
grounded in e-book studies (McKenna & Zucker, 2009) and the
knowledge base on early literacy instruction for young children
(National Early Literacy Panel, 2008).
The e-book as a technology-mediated environment
The physical place of e-book reading in the classroom
Engagement in e-book reading for small groups and in-
Explicit instruction using e-books
Our research objectives were to observe, define the salient
attributes, and rate the functioning of each component in situ
toward the goal of framing a model for replication and further
testing. To this purpose we employed a qualitative approach
that focused on sorting, clustering, and aggregating observa-
tional data to derive quality indicators and design features.
Sites and Participants
The model was implemented in four Early Reading First
classroom sites, two of which were located in the Midwest and
two in the Southwest region of the United States. Early Reading
First is a federally funded program that emphasizes science-
based instruction in early language, cognitive, and pre-reading
skills primarily serving poor children (U. S. Department of
Education, 2008). A convenience sample was used consisting
of a volunteer teacher and three children per site. (See Table 1.)
It should be no ted that Site 4 served majority special n eeds
The design process unfolded in four phases over a six-month
period as described in Figure1. Phase one involved setting de-
sign for small group and solo e-book reading in the classroom
environment. Feasibility studies were conducted in phases two
and three to gather data on the functionality (purpose and ca-
pacity for achieving learning outcomes) and usability (ease of
adoption and use in the setting) of the model components. Data
were analyzed in phase four to identify design strengths and
weaknesses and to frame the model for further testing.
Phase One. The design process in phase one yielded three
outcomes that set the stage for implementation of the model in
the sites: (1) a list of 68 mixed-genre e-books for e-book selec-
tion; (2) set-up specifications for an e-book nook in the class-
room; and (3) an online tutorial for teacher users. Access and
cost factors influenced the titles included in the e-book collec-
tion. Subscription rates for some e-book sources are less costly
than others and access to some e-book sources is limited on
mobile devices, such as iPod to uches. Equipment, furnishings
and space allocation were determining factors in the basic de-
sign of an e-book nook. (See Figure 2) The evidence base on
physical environment design in early childhood classrooms also
informed e-book nook specifications (Greenman, 1998; Moore,
2001). A short online tutorial was produced to demonstrate how
to use the equipment and model shared reading with an e-book.
Phases Two and Three. An 8-week feasibility study was
conducted to observe the implementation of the model in the
four sites. Teachers were asked to make arrangements for the
e-book nook in their classrooms; to plan for e-book reading
sessions for approximately 15 minutes 2 times per week; to
select an e-book from a pre-selected list of eight titles for
Participant Demographic s.
Classroom Site Teacher Child Sample n = 3 per site
Years of Experience Degree Mean Age in months Mean PPVT Standard
1 – Midwest 16 Associate 54 97
2 – Midwest 12 Associate 50 96
3 – Southwest 14 Elem. Ed 57 84
4 --Southwest 2 Special Ed 44 69
Note: PPVT-III: Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Dunn & Dunn, 1997).
Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4
2 months 4 weeks 4 weeks 2 months
Setting Design Fea sibility Feasibility Data Analysis
Study 1 Study 2
Time Frame of the Study.
K. ROSKOS ET AL.
Basic Design Specifications
HP TouchSmart 600t All-in-One PC
Apple 8 GB iPod Touch
Clearly located in classroom; signage
Seating for 3 children + teacher
Low noise level
Access to wifi + power outlets
E-book nook Design.
repeated reading each week; and to follow an instructional pro-
tocol for teaching children target vocabulary words pre-selected
from the e-book set. Research on direct vocabulary instruction
was used to develop the instructional protocol (Roskos &
Burstein, 2009; Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Silverman, 2007) and
select vocabulary words for instruction (Roskos et al., 2008;
Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2003; Biemiller & Slonim, 2001).
A pool of 80 v ocabulary words from the e-book set w as
identified for direct instruction, using a 2-6-2 ‘rule of thumb’:
20% basic concept words; 60% root words; 20% sophisticated
words. Vocabulary instruction consisted of a say-tell-do routine
where teachers (T) and children (C) say a target word, tell a
child-friendly meaning of it, and do a gesture related to word
meaning if appropriate. For example, T says: I say shovel; we
say: shovel; T tells: A shovel, is a tool with a handle. We dig
with it. Children tell one another [as best as they can]: Shovel is
a tool with a handle. We dig with it. T shows with gestures:
Let’s dig with our shovel. Children show gestures of digging
with a shovel. Teachers were guided to use the say-tell-do rou-
tine before reading the e-book; during reading as appropriate;
and to briefly review words after read ing in each e-book ses-
The initial 4-week implementation was focused on e-book
reading in small groups; the second on small group e-book
reading was followed by solo reading of the same story on the
mobile device. Two debriefs with teacher pairs were con-
ducted—one at the 4-week midpoint and the other at the end of
the 8-week period.
Videotaped observations of e-book reading sessions were
made using the web-cam on the All-in-One-Touch Smart PC to
capture children’s behaviors and a FLIP camera operated by a
literacy coach to capture teacher behaviors, totaling 15 hours.
Debriefs were conducted for approximately 1 hour using adobe
acrobat and were audio taped. Teachers regularly used a
one-page lesson plan form to record weekly planning for the
e-book sessions. Pre/post measures on children’s learning of
target vocabulary used a Curriculum-Based Decision Measure
(CBDM) approach developed by the researchers (Ergul, Burs-
tein, & Bryan, in press).
Phase Four. During and following the feasibility study, data
were processed using Carney’s ladder of abstraction as a guide
(Carney, 1990). Our analytic goal was to formatively assess the
functionality of the model in the preschool learning environ-
ment and to gauge its potential usability in early literacy prac-
tice. Initially videotaped data of the e-book sessions were up-
loaded into NVivo 8 (QSR International, 2007), qualitative
analysis software, and organized into a priori nodes represent-
ing broad categories of instructional activity: organization,
support, and affect. Each ‘tree node’ was repeatedly scanned
for salient indicators in each category, each indicator referred to
as a ‘child.’ Salient indicators in each category were labeled
and organized with initial descriptors into a set of indices for
queries. (See appendix.) Worksheets for calculating the pres-
ence/absence of teaching actions per the vocabulary instruction
protocol were developed. Debriefings were su mmarized into
research memoranda. Lesson plans were reviewed or marked for
evidence of planning before, during and after each e-book ses-
sion. E-book quality was summarized using a research-based
evaluation (Roskos, Brueck, & Widman, 2009).
Following this initial level of abstraction, observational data
were next re-organized and aggregated to determine frequen-
cies of salient indicators in each component and discern pat-
terns. E-books were examined for evidence of research-based
design features related to book assistants (e.g., start/stop/pause
buttons), multimedia illustrations, print, and i nteractivity (de
Jong & Bus, 20 03). Physical design criteria were used to ex-
amine video/photo samples of the e-book nook as a physical
place in the preschool classroom, including location, signage,
space allocation, acoustics and access to e-books (Roskos, 2008;
Greenman, 2005). To gain a wide-angle view of engagement
and instruction during e-book sessions, videotaped data were
examined for indices in two ways. Presence of salient indicators
in the broad categories of activity was identified at 1-minute
intervals in a sub-sample of e- book sessions ( 8 per teach er
counter-balanced for e-book session) and fidelity to the instruc-
tional protocol was examined at 30-second intervals on all
e-book sessions. These data were cross-referenced with teach-
ers’ comments in debriefs and their lesson plans.
Adapting a typological analytic strategy (Lofland, 1971) ob-
servational data on each component were further abstracted into
higher order categories of function and use in the form of rat-
ings based on a rudimentary 0-3 rating scale to represent evi-
dence of presence (0 = no presence; 1 = low presence; 2 =
moderate presence; 3 = high presence) of indicators. Similar to
Consumer Reports, ratings were organized into matrices for
purposes of assessment.
Table 2 summarizes the ratings of e-book titles used to ‘test’
the model related to presence of book assistants, multimedia
illustrations and print, and interactivity as quality indicators. A
signature design feature of e-books multimedia had a moderate
presence in the set as did book assistants, but interactivity de-
sign features fell into the low range. Design features were
strongest in the folk tale (Jack and the Beanstalk), and weakest
in two narratives (Mike and the Bike and Mud Puddle), and one
informational book (Diary of a Spider). The total mean rating
of 1.75 suggests an overall garden-variety e-book design that
may detract from the overall functionality and usability of the
K. ROSKOS ET AL. 13
Rating of Key Features of E-book Quality.
Book Title Design Features Mean
Book Assists Multimedia Illus-
trations and Print
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs 3 (67%) 2 (60%) 1 (17%) 2.00
How Zebras Got Their Stripes 3 (67%) 2 (60%) 1 (17%) 2.00
Diary of a Spider 1 (33%) 2 (60%) 1 (17%) 1.33
Jack and the Beanstalk 3 (67%) 2 (60%) 2 (50%) 2.33
Fire Station 1 (33%) 2 (60%) 1 (17%) 1.33
Mike and the Bike 1 (33%) 3 (80%) 0 ( 0%) 1.33
Mud Puddle 1 (33%) 3 (80%) 1 (17%) 1.67
Subway Ride 3 (67%) 2 (60%) 1 (17%) 2.00
Total Mean 2.00 2.25 1.00 1.75
3 = 67-100%; 2 = 34-66%; 1 = 1-33%; 0 = 0%
model in t erms of e arly literacy learning outcomes. Design
features included the fundamentals of e-books for young chil-
dren, namely basic e-book assistants (start-stop features), ani-
mated illustrations and print highlights (largely at the sentence
level), music, and voice narration, but few opportunities to
interact with the content or text (e.g., hotspots).
Ratings of the e-book nooks as distinct settings in the class-
room sites per the physical design criteria are displayed in
Table 3. Analysis of the matrix data points to relatively weak
implementation of this component in the built environment
with a total mean of 1.3. Signage, for example, was totally ab-
sent in all sites, which may reflect a lack of signage generally in
the preschool environments. Access to the inter-net and power
sources was also very weak, and likely interfered with consis-
tent quality in the e-book reading sessions. Features of setting
location and spatial arrangement and appeal were also in the
low range, and again may reflect the broader design qualities of
the settings. Attention to acoustical features showed the highest
rating, perhaps because the teachers needed to ensure children
could hear the e-book narration during e-book reading sessions.
Overall, the poor showing of physical place criteria is disap-
pointing since teachers showed a genuine eagerness to create
the e-book nooks in their classrooms. More explicit guid ance
and examples may be needed to help teachers envision what an
e-book nook might look like in the physical environment.
Four data sources were clustered to r ate the presence of
teacher-child engagement during the e-book shared reading
sessions: (i) teacher-child motor behaviors at the touch screen
(e.g., pointing); (ii) children’s facial gestures during e-book
reading (e.g., smiling); (iii) teacher-child control of the e-book
reading on the touch screen; and (iv) children’s attention indi-
cated by directional eye gaze toward the touch screen. Frequen-
cies in each cluster were calculated based on the video observa-
tional data coded at 1-minute intervals; arbitrary benchmarks
were established to rate engagement. These data are summa-
rized in Table 4. It is important to note that the length of e-book
sessions in classroom 2 were substantially shorter than those in
the other sites, on average about 12 minutes long, thus reducing
the opportunity for demonstrations of engagement. Th at class-
room 4 served only special needs children should also be noted.
The strongest evidence of this component is demonstrated in
facial gestures that indicate children’s positive responses to
screen content. They frequently smiled, contemplated, and
gazed intently at the screen across e-book r eading sessions,
suggesting their interest in the stories. Motor b ehaviors also
provide strong evidence of engagement on the part of partici-
pants where positive types are high and negative types low.
Incidences of pointing and sitting still predominated over those
of wiggling and shifting about ‘as if’ uninterested. Children’s
focal attention to teacher and screen also provides evidence of
moderate-to-high engagement in the e-book reading across
The weakest evidence of engagement involved shared con-
trol of the e-book screen. This indicator of engagement did not
appear well organized or managed at this point. Several teach-
ers reported that asking children to manipulate the controls at
the touch screen proved disruptive, diverting children’s atten-
tion from the story line. This, however, represents a negative
design feature o f this component. Children’s interactive par-
ticipation, such as finger-tracking print, pointing to words and
page-turning, is a staple of the shared book instructional routine
(Mason, Peterman & Kerr, 1989) because it has been found to
develop children’s knowledge of print conventions which are
foundational in the learn-to-read process (Morris, 1992).
Shared control of the e-book reading screen, therefore, is a
critical design factor that needs to be addressed and embedded
in the model.
The model limits instruction to empirical techniques that
support essential early literacy skills (National Early Literacy
Panel, 2008). Instruction, therefore, is defined largely by fidel-
ity to scientifically proven and promising instructional proce-
dures and sequences (See, for example, p 14 of guidelines for
teaching phonemic awareness (Vaughn & Linan-Thompson,
2004). The prototype model in this study used a direct instruc-
tion vocabulary sequence referred to as say-tell-do to ‘test’ the
viability of the instruction component in the classroom sites
(Roskos & Burstein, 2009). The procedure includes 12 teaching
actions before, during and after shared reading that guide in-
struction. In addition to evidence of fidelity to the instructional
procedure (12 teaching actions), observational data on mean
length of session, the percent of teacher explanations of target
words during sessions and child use of target words during
sessions were calculated and rated to assess how well the in-
struction component functioned in the e-book shared reading
K. ROSKOS ET AL.
Physical Place Crit eria Ratings by Classroom Site.
Site Design Features Mean
Location Signage Space Acoustics Access
Classroom 1 1 0 1 3 1 1.2
Classroom 2 2 0 1 2 1 1.2
Classroom 3 2 0 2 2 1 1.4
Classroom 4 2 0 2 2 1 1.4
Total Mean 1.75 0 1.50 2.25 1.00 1.3
Location: 3 = clearly defined enclosure; 2 = somewhat defined; 1 = poorly defined; 0 = no enclosure.
Signage: 3 = clear signage using print & picture; 2 = printed sign; 1= picture; 0 = no sign
Space: 3 = inviting with comfortable eating, light, color, graphics; 2 = attractive with adequate seating for viewing; adequate light; some coordinated color; 1 = basic
setting with seating for viewing; poorly lit; uncoordinated color; 0=no pre-arranged seating.
Acoustics: 3 = low external sound levels; 2 = ordinary background noise; 1 = high volume background noise; interruptions 0 = persistent distracting, loud noises;
Access: 3 high-speed wifi access; >3 power outlets available; 2 = adequate speed wifi or wired; 2 power outlets available; 1 = slow speed wifi or wired access;1
power outlet available; 0 = no wifi; extension cords
Ratings of Engagement by Classroom.
Classroom Motor Facial Gestures E-book Control Attention Mean
+ – + – Child T + –
1 3 (104) 3(43) 3(169) 3(0) 1 (11) 1(293) 2(73) 2(13) 2.25
2 1 (34) 3(46) 1(70) 3(0) 1 (0) 1(183) 2(70) 2(18) 1.75
3 3 (129) 2(59) 3(191) 3(0) 1 (0) 1(306) 3(169) 3(8) 2.38
4 2 (88) 3(50) 2(141) 3(2) 1(23) 1(262) 3(145) 1(37) 2.00
Total Mean 2.25 2.25 2.25 3.00 1.00 1.00 2.50 2.00 2.10
Motor + (e.g., pointing): 1 = 0 - 50; 2 = 1 - 100; 3 => 100
Motor – (e.g., wiggling): 1 > 100; 2 = 51 - 100; 3 = 1-50
Facial + (e.g., smiling): 1=1 - 75; 2=76 - 150; 3=>150
Facial – (e.g., bored): 1 > 30; 2 = 20 - 30; 3 = 0 - 19
E-book Control-Child: 1=1 - 75; 2 =7 6 - 150; 3 => 150
E-book Control-T: 1 => 150; 2 = 75 - 150; 3 =< 75
Attention + (to screen) 1 = 1 - 50; 2 = 51 - 100; 3 > 100
Attention – (distracted): 1 => 25; 2 = 10 - 25; 3 =< 10
sessions. Ratings are shown in Table 5.
Implementation of this component shows considerable vari-
ability, particularly across indices of fidelity, session length and
teacher explanations, which we might expect given the dynam-
ics of instruction in real classrooms. Two patterns in the com-
ponent are notable. With the exception of site 2, evidence of
fidelity to the instructional protocol—the 12 teaching ac-
tions—is moderate to strong, which suggests the potential
strength of an explicit procedure as a design feature. But the
generally weak presence of teacher language that supports word
learning (explaining word meanings) also suggests that a pro-
tocol is an insufficient design feature, in and of itself. Individ-
ual teacher knowledge and skill is a powerful factor and needs
to be consi dered in the desig n. More training and self-monitoring
may need to be ‘built into’ the design to improve the function-
ality and usability of this component. Still, it is worth noting the
strong showing of child language in the functioning of this
component that provides further evidence of an explicit instruc-
tional protocol as a critical design feature that contributes to the
overall functionality of the model for achieving learning out-
comes. As a proxy for functionality, the CBDM pre/post results
support this conjecture showing that children made vocabulary
gains in either receptive or expressive vocabulary in the im-
plementation sites. (See Table 6)
Given the dearth of research on e-book pedagogy in early lit-
eracy, we conceptualized and formatively tested a four-compo-
nent model as an instructional framework for integrating e-books
into the early literacy program. In this small-scale study, we im-
plemented our original design concept of the model in four p re-
school classrooms to observe the functionality and usability of its
components with the goal of stabilizing the model for more rig-
orous testing. Salient indicators of each component were identi-
fied, organized at different le vels of a bstraction, and assigne d
ratings to yield an assessment of design strengths and weaknesses
as a basis for further model development. In brief, the design
analysis revealed the need for better quality e-books; more pre-
cise design specifications for an e-book nook in the classroom
setting; more explicit guidance for child engagement during
e-book reading sessions; and stronger teacher training on ‘how
to’ use instructional procedures and skills in shared e-book read-
ing. Additionally, the successive analyses yielded a stronger and
more parsimonious set of indices for observing component func-
tion and use in subsequent design studies. Engagement indices,
for example, were collapsed into four categories (motor; facial
gesture; e-book control; attention) each with a few markers that
can be organized into a more streamlined observation checklist.
K. ROSKOS ET AL. 15
Ratings for Instruct i o n b y C l a s s r o o m .
Classroom Fidelity to Instruc-
tional Protocol Length of Session Teacher Language
(Target Word Use) Mean
1 3.00 (550) 3.00 (17:00) 2.00 (18%) 2.00 (44%) 2.50
2 1.00 (260) 1.00 (12:10) 1.00 (12%) 2.00 (41%) 1.25
3 3.00 (535) 2.00 (14:40) 3.00 (25%) 3.00 (55%) 2.75
4 2.00 (437) 3.00 (16:27) 1.00 (13%) 3.00 (54%) 2.25
Total Mean 2.25 (446) 2.25 (15:04) 1.75 (17%) 2.50 (49%) 2.19
Frequency, Time and Percentage Benchmarks
Fidelity of Implementation: 3 => 500; 2 = 300 - 500; 1 = < 300
Length of Session: 3 => 150; 2 = 13 - 16; 1 = < 3min
Teacher Language: 3 => 20; 2 = 15 - 20; 1 =< 15%
Child Language: 3 = > 50; 2 = 4 0- 50; 1 =< 40%
Child Performance Across Classrooms.
Classroom Mean Pre Recep-
Mean Post Recep-
Mean Pre Expres-
Mean Post Ex-
1 13.33 16.33 3.00 7.00 14.67 7.60
2 14.00 16.67 2.67 9.33 8.00 –1.33
3 14.33 19.67 5.33 12.00 18.67 6.70
4 9.00 8.00 –1.00 6.33 9.67 3.30
Several strengths in the functionality and usability of the
model components emerged . Functionality of the instruction
component, for example, appeared to be enhanced by the inclu-
sion of an explicit instructional procedure, as demonstrated in
fidelity to a direct vocabulary instruction protocol that appeared
to yield gains in children’s vocabulary across implementation
sites. The relative power of this feature in the component de-
sign needs further testing. Functionality of the engagement
component emerged in teacher-child motor behaviors at the
screen, as wel l as children’s generally positive affect in the
context. Usability was marked by a flexibility or ‘play’ in the
components that allowed teachers to make adaptations in terms
of e-book selection, physical arrangements, and planning for
and organizing sessions to facilitate engagement and instruc-
Considerable design in each of the components remains,
however, to stabilize the model for more rigorous testing in
classrooms. One, a high quality set of e-books for preschoolers
needs to be identified and described, including titles, brief an-
notations, source information and costs. Two, design specifica-
tions of the e-book nook need to be better articulated (e.g.,
equipment, space needs, identity, technology access) and pho-
to/graphic examples provided to aid teachers in setting up the
e-book nook in their classrooms. Three, guidelines for engaging
children at the screen during e-book shared reading sessions
need to be developed in collaboration with teachers to support
children’s active participation in shared e-book reading and to
develop screen reading motor skills. Four, online professional
development materials need to be developed that train teachers
in the ‘how to’ of e-book reading (e.g., pacing, pausing, sci-
ence-based protocols) and deepen their book-reading language
facilitation skills, such as asking questions, clarifying content,
extending ideas, etc). Brief computer-based tutorials that out-
line step-by-step ‘how to’ implement the model in the class-
room would also be helpful. Following these improvements,
further design-based research can be pursued on a larger scale
that develops a more functional and usable model in the pre-
Our results at this formative stage are limited by several fac-
tors. Technically, the poor quality of some videotaped observa-
tions (e.g., too much background noise) rendered them unus-
able for coding. As a result, relevant data may have been lost
and not included in the successive analyses that yielded rating
scores, thus degrading the d esign information. Site logistics
were difficult due to external factors (e.g., teacher schedules,
absences, mandatory meetings), which eroded the quality of
training, site management and debriefings and likely compro-
mised these observational data for design purposes. Analyti-
cally, disciplined data analyses at successively higher levels of
abstraction proved very challenging in a collaborative research
approach, which led to some miss-steps in coding and cate-
gory-reduction that influenced the emerging assessment of
functionality and usability using a rating system. At times frus-
trating, this process nonetheless produced refinements in the set
of indices for observing the model and guided design changes
for the next phase of model development and testing.
The e-book represents a technological advance in the book
from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional information tool,
replacing the page with the screen and enlivening text with rich
imagery, sound, and animation (Kress, 2003). Research on what
this evolution means for early literacy learning is indeed young,
but pioneer studies point to the potential of these new dynamic
features for supporting children’s emerging literacy skills and
abilities (Segers, Nooijen, & deMoor, 2006; Shamir & Korat,
2009; Verhallen, Bus, & deJong, 2006). The important research
K. ROSKOS ET AL.
task, however, is not only to understand how these new age
tools impact early literacy development and learning processes,
but also to understand how to use them well in preschool early
literacy education. Our e-book model is a design framework
that moves in this direction and our ambitious goal is to dem-
onstrate ‘proof of concept’ that improves the instructional po-
tential of t he literacy-learning environment for teachers and
children. We are at the start-point of this research agenda.
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K. ROSKOS ET AL. 17
Initial Set of Indices for Coding Observational Data
Node Salient Indicators (Child) Descriptors
Organization Position Sitting
Supports Attention Eye Gaze
Peer to Peer
Affect Gestures Smiling