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Manawatu families sought for children's literacy study

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A Massey University study will examine how young children use books and technology to develop literacy skills before they start school.

The research hopes to debunk notions that television or screens are bad, and show how they can be interactive learning tools for children.

Researchers are recruiting 20 Manawatū families to take part in the study, which will investigate how four-and-a-half-year-olds use books and screens within family homes.

Institute of Education senior lecturer Dr Alison Arrow says children’s literacy behaviours and activities are changing.

"When we were children, learning to read and write involved books and paper. Children today can interact with symbols and print, not only on paper, but also on screens such as those on phones, computers and other devices," Dr Arrow says

"We’re asking parents to help us collect information about how young children relate to numbers, letters and visuals both on pages and on screens in their homes prior to starting school."

Over a fortnight, parents will keep a diary of the "reading" of their child from both pages and screens, both by themselves and with adults or siblings.

Video cameras will be provided to make recordings and parents can also download a programme to their computer to record what their child does and how they use it. A researcher will collect the equipment after the two-week period and can offer advice, suggestions or support.

Dr Arrow says the study will examine not only what children are reading or watching but also how they interact. "The assumption is that when children are on computers they’re playing games, and that’s bad. But what we want to find out is what exactly are they doing? Our guess is that they’re doing things that will help them for school, such as learning literacy, the alphabet, and narratives."

She says watching television programmes and DVDs and reading books of the same series actually help children learn the story. According to a previous study, when children are watching screens they are generally not alone, and are interacting with it by talking, dancing or playing with toys at the same time.

"We’re hoping to show that everything they’re doing is normal, that there’s no one way to interact with print or screens, that TV is not as bad as it’s made out to be, that the things kids are watching are really good for them, and they’re actually learning."

For more information or to participate in the study please contact Dr Alison Arrow on 06 356 9099 extn 84460 or email

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