Digital Literacy for Preschoolers

Maximizing the Benefits of eBooks for Emergent Literacy

June 26 - 27, 2015

McGill University
Montreal, Canada

Deadline for Early Bird Registration: June 14, 2015 at 11:59 PM

After this date, a $50 late fee applies per person.


Day 1

Scientific Conference

Fee: $250 · Capacity: 100
Location: Leacock Building, Rm 232

The scientific conference will focus on four themes that explore the use and impact of digital media on children’s learning at home and school. The content will be of interest to a wide audience including elementary school teachers, early childhood educators, school administrators, librarians, speech-language pathologists and other professionals that work with children and families, researchers and university students.


Registration and badge pick-up


Welcoming remarks


1. "Parent-Preschooler Interaction During Electronic and Traditional Book Reading: Similarities, Differences, Challenges, Future Directions"

Julia Parish-Morris, Post-Doctoral Fellow, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - Center for Autism Research, United States (KeyNote Presenter) and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, & Brenna Hassinger-Das

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents read to their children daily from birth. At the same time, the AAP suggests that parents avoid screen time for children under age 2. Given these recommendations, how do we as parents, educators, clinicians, and developmental scientists, deal with the case of electronic books? Should e-books be considered shared reading, or are they more accurately categorized as screen time? In this talk, I will review a recent study of dyadic reading between 3- and 5-year-olds and their parents in the context of electronic books and traditional paper books. I will talk about how parent language, child language, child story comprehension, and parent enjoyment of the shared reading interaction changes when parents and children read electronic books together. A new study using iPad apps will be described, and language implications of screen time for our youngest children will be outlined. Finally, I will present some new ideas for electronic applications that may be beneficial in certain early childhood contexts (but not all).


2. "With Infants, E-Books and Traditional Books May Not Be So Different"

Gabrielle Strouse, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Language and Learning Lab, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Presenter), and Patricia Ganea

There is reason to believe that important differences exist in the way parents and children treat new technologies and traditional formats. In this presentation, we describe the results of a study in which parents of 102 infants aged 17 to 26 months were randomly assigned to read electronic or traditional format books with identical content with their infant.


3. "Adult Supports for Children’s Understanding of Interactive eBooks: A Cross-sectional Case Study"

Kathleen Paciga, Assistant Professor, Education, Columbia College Chicago (Presenter)

A cross-sectional case study was utilized to examine an adult’s use of supports for two siblings’ (male, 54 months old; female, 30 months old) experiences with the same interactive e-book.


4. "Story-related discourse by parent-child dyads: A comparison of typically developing children and children with language impairments reading print books and eBooks"

Kathrin Rees, Doctoral Candidate, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada (Presenter)

The proposed presentation addresses the linguistic engagement apparent in the extratextual talk of two groups of parents and preschoolers reading a paper book and an interactive eBook (children with typical language development and children with impaired language).



Coffee Break


1. "Preschoolers in the Digital Age: How do E-storybooks and Paper Storybooks Compare?"

Mary L. Courage, University Research Professor, Psychology, Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada (KeyNote Presenter) and Anna Richter, PsyD (Candidate)

The increasing availability of electronic storybooks for preschoolers has raised concerns that they will not only add to daily screen time, but also distract children and diminish pre-reading skill acquisition. E-books may also change the nature of the parent-child interaction that occurs during reading with traditional print books and that supports early literacy skills. Alternatively, because electronic books are delivered via popular mobile devices, they might motivate children to read more, benefit from built-in reading aids, and increase their focused attention to story details. Research to date has not resolved these issues, leaving parents and educators with mixed messages on the pros and cons of the two formats in promoting children’s literacy. We will report on an experimental study in which we evaluated preschool children’s attention, learning, and engagement with comparable stories in both formats.


2. "The complexities and learning opportunities of personalisation in children’s digital books"

Natalia Kucirkova, Lecturer, Developmental Psychology, Open University, London, U.K. (Presenter)

In this paper, I use the personalisation framework developed by Oulasvirta & Blom, (2008), to reflect on the various forms personalisation can take in children’s digital reading materials, paying close attention to the notions of agency, aesthetics and bidirectionality in multimedia.


3. "Parental Co-viewing and Language Learning from Digital Media"

Georgene Troseth, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, United States (Presenter)

Georgene Troseth, Gabrielle Strouse and Colleen Russo Abstract: We will discuss young children’s language learning from video in two studies with and without parental support. This research provides important background information for those studying children’s learning from newer, interactive digital media (e.g., eBooks, touchscreen apps, and video chat).


4. Question and Answer session between audience and presenter panel




1. "Teaching with eBooks: Emerging Practices"

Kathleen Roskos, Professor, John Carroll University and Jeremy Brueck, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Akron, United States (KeyNote Presenters)

The surge of eBooks and storybook apps into the early childhood world is rapidly changing the traditional early book experience and thereby the way literacy is promoted in early education. As eBooks increasingly replace print books on an array of devices, the need to understand their impact not only on children’s engagement and learning, but also early literacy teaching grows more urgent. How do adults help young children learn to read and write in an electronic reading environment? Our session focuses on emerging e-reading practices that appear promising for promoting children’s early literacy knowledge, skills and motivation. Drawing on a series of field studies in early childhood classrooms, we describe hybrid pedagogies teachers are using to support early literacy experience with eBooks and apps. We also report both the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” when implementing eBook reading instruction in mobile learning environments. Finally we discuss the supports that teachers need when adapting their existing practices to eBook enriched classrooms.

Jeremy Brueck's links:

Kathleen Roskos' links:

2. "Using constructive apps to develop digital literary skills in early childhood education"

Monika Tavernier, German Swiss International School Hong Kong

Early childhood educators can make use of applications such as the Book Creator to foster an interest in experimenting with written and verbal language to create original content.

3. "School Based Shared Reading with iRead with Books Improves Emergent Literacy Skills"

Susan Rvachew, Professor, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada (Presenter) and Kathrin Rees, Aparna Nadig, Elizabeth Carolan, and Elizabeth Christe

We worked with Tribal Nova Inc. to develop ebooks that encourage a dialogic reading style by adults when sharing the book with a child and tested the efficacy of the books in the context of a community reader program for kindergarten children. Outcomes are described for story retell, story comprehension and emergent literacy skills as a function of the children’s letter knowledge at intake.



Coffee Break


1. "A Cluster Randomized Control Field Trial of the ABRACADABRA Web-based Reading Technology: Replication and Extension of Basic Findings."

Robert Savage, Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar, Faculty of Education, McGill University, Canada (KeyNote Presenter) and Noella Piquette & Philip C. Abrami

The present paper reports a cluster randomized control trial evaluation of teaching using ABRACADABRA (ABRA), an evidence-based and web-based literacy intervention ( with 107 kindergarten and 96 grade 1 children in 24 classes (12 intervention 12 control classes) from all 12 elementary schools in one school district in Canada. Children in the intervention condition received 10-12 hours of whole class instruction using ABRA between pre- and post-test. Hierarchical linear modeling of post-test results showed significant gains in letter-sound knowledge for intervention classrooms over control classrooms. In addition, medium effect sizes were evident for three of five outcome measures favoring the intervention: letter-sound knowledge (d = +.66), phonological blending (d = +.52), and word reading (d = +.52), over effect sizes for regular teaching. It is concluded that regular teaching with ABRA technology adds significantly to literacy in the early elementary years. We discuss these findings and those of our previous work against wider literature on the effectiveness of educational technologies.


2. "The e-book as a Facilitator of Language and Literacy among Hebrew-Speaking Children"

Ofra Korat, Professor and Head of Child Development Program, School of Education, Bar-Ilan University (Presenter)

In this presentation, we will present a series of studies performed in the last decade that examined the contribution of e-book reading to the language and literacy of young Hebrew-speaking children.


3. "Early Reading Outcomes among Preschoolers: Digital vs. Print Media"

Seung Hyun Son, Lancaster University, Lancaster, U.K.

The present research investigated the effectiveness of preschoolers’ reading skills on a regular basis by using digital media compared to print media.


4. Question and Answer session between audience and presenter panel


Closing Remarks

Day 2

Round Table Discussions

Fee: $200 · Capacity: 36 ·
Location: McGill Executive Institute, James McKee W. Jr Business Lounge

The Day 2 Round Table Discussions will involve 36 participants representing a range of constituencies including researchers, students, parents, educators, community groups and the digital media industry. The discussions will cover three themes broadly addressing the challenge of communicating science based information to the public about the use of digital media by children when the scientific evidence is still emerging. The outcome of this conference will be a better understanding of the state of the evidence and a new section of the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development that will be useful for families, professionals and policy makers. These discussions will be of interest to anyone who uses digital media with young children or who communicates to lay or professional audiences about the use of digital media with children.


Deluxe Breakfast, Introductions and Welcome


Introduced by Kathrin Rees (Certified Teacher at Special Education Schools/Germany; Doctoral Candidate, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University)

The research base on shared reading of eBooks is still scant and to some extent conflicting. Consequently, many contemporary parent guidelines on digital media use tend to base their recommendations on well-tested learning principles in other, related areas of research (e.g., TV viewing, traditional book reading). How useful is it to generalize from learning research in other contexts? Featuring video-examples from the Digital Media Project, this presentation will introduce and challenge current recommendations for parents as a lead-in to small group discussion on this theme. Participants will also be provided with a packet of representative guidelines in current use for parent education on this topic.


Coffee break and Networking


Introduced by Dr. Aparna Nadig (Associate Professor, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University)

The popular media presents many extreme messages to parents and professionals about the impact of digital media on children health and learning outcomes. Dr. Nadig will lead an engaging full group activity to focus attention on the potential benefits and harms of these messages as a lead-in to a brief introduction to the principles of responsible and effective science communication. Participants will receive a packet of materials on science communication.


Summary and housekeeping messages


Lunch on your own in downtown Montreal


Introduced by Susan Magsamen (Senior Vice President of Early Learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Susan is a Senior Vice President of Business Operations, a member of several boards, such as Nature Publishing Group’s Science of Learning and Early Care and Education Consortium, and a collaborator with the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University on the science of play. She is at the core of HMH’s global marketing reflection on how to promote a digital healthy diet and how to propose quality digital products on the market. She is leading a major initiative in the US called Conversations in Early Learning as a way to advance the dialogue around the quality of Early Learning, including literacy issues. Susan would like to discuss this initiative as a way to explore responsible marketing approaches.


Closing remarks

Keynote Speakers

Julia Parish-Morris, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Center for Autism Research

Mary L. Courage, Ph.D.

University Research Professor
Department of Psychology
Memorial University

Kathleen Roskos, Ph.D.

Professor of Education
John Carroll University

Jeremy Brueck, Ph.D.

Visiting Assistant Professor
University of Akron


Robert Savage, Ph.D.

Associate Professor & William Dawson Scholar
Faculty of Education
McGill University

Call for Abstracts

We are accepting proposals to present posters or 20 minute oral presentations relevant to any of the following themes during the Scientific Conference on June 26, 2015. Please note that although the title specifies preschoolers and eBooks, we are interested in broader submissions on any stage of childhood or adolescence, and on any type of digital media. The four themes are:


How Do Parents and Children Engage with eBooks?


Learning Language from Shared Reading with eBooks


Teaching with eBooks in the Classroom


Learning to Read from Digital Media

February 1, 2015

Submissions open

April 1, 2015

Submissions closed

April 10, 2015

Decisions announced

Join us in Montreal

Registration opens on March 1st 2015

Housing Information

Delta Montréal

475 Avenue du Président-Kennedy, Montréal, QC H3A 1J7

Room Rates

Single $154/night before taxes
Double $154/night before taxes
Any extra person will be charged an additional $20.00

Check in: 3:00PM

Check out: 12:00PM

Reservations can be made by

Each guest must mention that they are part of the following group: 5GISCSD or the name Susan Rvachew – SCSD – McGill University.

Carrefour Sherbrooke (On campus Housing)

475 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, QC, H3A 2L9

Room Rates

Single $114/night before taxes
Double $114/night before taxes
Any extra person will be charged an additional $10.00

Breakfast included

Check in: 3:00PM

Check out: 11:00AM

Reservations can be made by

Must mention that it’s for the conference Digital Literacy for Preschoolers

These special rates apply between June 25, 2015 and June 28, 2015. Reservations are based upon availability, so we highly encourage guests to make their reservations as soon as possible.

Contact Us

School Of Communication Sciences and Disorders

2001 McGill College , 8th floor
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 1G1


Website: Digital Media Project For Children