I found this new PhD, written by Zsofia Katalin Takacs via Peter Nikken. The most important lesson we can take from this study on on-screen children’s stories is that the combination of interaction and multimedia is not a good idea and will hinder learning. When children can play with elements inside the story, the comprehension of the story is less and the story won’t help their vocabulary.
Still animation, sounds and music (without the interaction) can have a positive effect on both comprehension and vocabulary, even possible better than with traditional books.
So Takacs concludes: when looking for a story-app: go for animations, sounds and music, but try to bypass the interaction.
Abstract of the PhD:
Based on the available empirical evidence, it was investigated in the present dissertation which features of electronic storybooks are beneficial for young children’s language and literacy development. In a meta-analysis interactive features like ‘hotspots’ and games were found to distract children from the story. Switching between listening to a story and playing with interactive elements requires multitasking and might be too demanding for young children’s cognitive capacities. In contrast, multimedia elements like animation, background music and sound effects that illustrate the abstract language of narrative stories were found to facilitate children’s comprehension of the story and word learning. For instance, motion in animated illustrations were found to attract children’s attention to the part of the picture that is relevant to the oral narration and thus facilitate story comprehension. Guidelines for developers, parents and teachers are discussed.