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Sensory books – Coming back to our senses to transform children’s digital reading

This cutting-edge project researches the power of smells and scents to transform children’s reading.

Publisert: Endret:
Facts
Objectives

To establish the theoretical mechanisms, methodological innovations and learning benefits of children’s e-books enhanced with sensory stimulation, especially smell

Target group

Kindergarten teachers and parent of children age 3-5 years.

Timeline

2021-2025

Scents and smells provide unique clues about the environment and they activate interest, engagement, and memories. Photo: Getty Images.
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The entire educational system relies on audio-visual content and neglects the role of olfaction in children’s learning. Photo: Getty Images.

Scents and smells provide unique clues about the environment and they activate interest, engagement, and memories. Yet, the entire educational system relies on audio-visual content and neglects the role of olfaction in children’s learning. The focus on olfaction carries specific urgency given the current increased use of antiseptics and sanitation products and an altered sense of smell of those who had Covid-19. This is the first project to examine the educational value of olfaction in children’s learning, with a specific focus on children’s reading.

The main study will be conducted in Norway, which has one of the world’s highest Internet coverage, technology availability and digital literacy in the educational sector. Data collection follows a participatory research methodology. This means that the researchers involve children as co-researchers, who together with their parents and teachers, examine the role of scents and smells in children’s digital books. The focus is on 3-5-year-old Norwegian children and their schools and families who will find out whether scented books increase children’s reading engagement, comprehension and learning of story-related vocabulary. In addition, children’s authors and illustrators, app designers, publishers and librarians will contribute to the development of prototypes and ideas.

The project combines psychology, education, literary theory and computer science and diverse cutting-edge methods to provide a new perspective on children’s reading in the digital age.

Why are digital books essential for children’s learning?

Many children, especially those labelled as “reluctant readers” prefer to read digitally, or at least they like digital books as much as print books, which affects their intrinsic motivation to read. Unlike print texts, digital texts can be dynamically shared and modified in the process of reading and personalized to the reader. Digital texts are more cost-effective to produce and deliver to readers who don’t have access to reading materials in print and/or in their native language.

Well-designed digital books offer significant learning benefits to children with special learning needs and children with little history of reading at home. Therefore, if we are to achieve social justice and promote the reading of all children, it becomes a moral imperative (a matter of social justice) to ensure that children have access digital books. Our project offers children the possibility to experience high-quality digital reading.

Objectives

Primary objective is to establish the theoretical mechanisms, methodological innovations and learning benefits of children’s e-books enhanced with sensory stimulation, especially smell.

Outcomes and impacts

The project provides the first experimental evidence on the impact of sensory e-reading, with a focus on a novel component: smell. As such, the project brings a much-needed nuanced approach to the under-theorised debates on digital versus paper and cerebral versus embodied reading. A participatory approach will make a difference to how stories are created and perceived by wider public, with focus on parents’ and teachers’ attitudes towards e-reading.

The outcomes include articles and conference presentations of interest to international researchers, national press coverage, blogs, social media campaigns, and empirically grounded guidelines for Norwegian children’s publishers and kindergarten teachers. This pioneering work with e-books and sensory engagement is likely to have a significant impact on Norwegian kindergartens, publishing industry and international knowledge on e-books.

Methodology

WP1: Meta-analysis

The meta-analysis aims to establish the latest evidence for the use of sensory stimulation (all five senses) as a tool to promote learning. The outcome is precise, quantitative estimates of the size of learning effects of sensory engagement (defined broadly to include all senses), based on a large number of diverse studies. It includes systematic literature review and calculation of effect sizes of published and existing studies/datasets.

WP2: Online national survey

The survey aims to establish Norwegian parents’ and kindergarten teachers’ attitudes towards the connection between children’s story-reading and sensory engagement with e-books. It will produce a comprehensive mapping of the use of e-books in Norwegian families as well as the views of parents and teachers on the ways in which senses influence reading.

WP3: Interactive exhibition with cultural probes

The project team will together with the project partner organize an interactive exhibition for children living in the local area. The exhibition will contain cultural probes, which are a widely used participatory design technique. They consist of kits (packages) distributed to children encouraging them to create artefacts (for example glue, paper and pencil to create their own bookmarks). Cultural probes will be combined with semi-structured contextual interviews to clarify the meaning of children’s artefacts and prompt further reflections.

WP4/WP5: Quantitative experiment

Two experiments will be carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of reading of digital books with and without olfactory stimulation (control condition). The intervention (experimental manipulation) consists of reading digital books provided by the researchers to children to read at home, with and without olfactory stimulation and with and without parents’ help.

WP6: Stakeholder workshops

We will organise workshops with adult professionals to establish their views and ideas on innovative olfactory books.

Researchers and co-workers:

Professor
51834522
Læringsmiljøsenteret, avd. Stavanger
Faculty of Arts and Education

Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioral Research in Education
Rådgiver
51831391
Læringsmiljøsenteret, avd. Stavanger
Faculty of Arts and Education

Faculty Administration UH

Administrasjon NSLA Avd. Stavanger
Førsteamanuensis
51832943
Læringsmiljøsenteret, avd. Stavanger
Faculty of Arts and Education

Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioral Research in Education
Professor
Faculty of Arts and Education
Universitetslektor
51834566
Læringsmiljøsenteret, avd. Porsgrunn
Faculty of Arts and Education

Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioral Research in Education

Avdeling Porsgrunn