Maternal language use during the shared reading experiences of mothers and their infant children using a traditional print and e-book
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The world of media has shifted and continues to shift from submissive viewing to more complex, multimodal interactions around ever-present portable technologies. As children increasingly communicate and learn through technology, new forms of literacy practices are emerging. Such possibilities create new ways in which literacy is shared between parent and child within the home. Yet, little is known about these at home digital literacy practices. To address this gap a mixed-methodology was used to compare the experiences of mothers with their 12-month-old infants during print and e-book shared reading. Specifically, this study examined the maternal language that emerged within each context to determine if context generated differences in language used. Participants for this study included 30 mother/infant dyads. Results suggested that shared reading context did generate differences in mother’s complexity of language used. Maternal language strategies varied in conjunction with the demands of each media platform. Interactions with the print storybook involved greater maternal language used to scaffold literacy and concept development. Conversely, mothers exchanged their role as literacy leader for their infant’s participation within the e-book context, where language was more often used to praise and encourage babies throughout the experience. The findings of this study suggest that features of electronic texts may inhibit adults’ opportunities to scaffold young children’s’ literacy and cognitive development. Implications call for further research concerning the use of digital text and the afforded learning experiences for infants and toddlers. Practical implications include suggestions to maintain a human-centric approach during e-book joint use, keeping caregivers’ role as primary while incorporating technology as an influential tool.