A Typology for Observing Children’s Engagement with eBooks at Preschool

Kathleen Roskos
John Carroll University

Karen Burstein and Byeong-Keun You
Southwest Institute for Families and Children


This research reports a two-phase descriptive study of young children’s engagement with ebooks conducted in Head Start classrooms. Phase 1 focused on the development of a typology as an analytic framework for observing engagement with ebooks in different formats (shared book; independent book browsing) and across devices (stationary touch screen; handhelds). Converging extant research categories with videotaped observations of ebook reading from classroom samples (n=12 children), a typology was derived using qualitative analytic procedures. It consisted of three categories (control, multisensory behaviors, communication) and 11 salient behaviors of children’s engagement with ebooks. Phase 2 applied the typology to a comparable classroom sample (n=24 children) to obtain descriptive observations of children’s engagement with ebooks in teacher-led ebook reading at the touch screen and child-led ebook browsing/reading with handheld devices (iPad; iPod). Potential influences of behavioral regulation levels on children’s engagement with ebooks were also explored. Results supported the typology as a fairly reliable and manageable framework for analytic purposes of description and enumeration, yielding descriptive evidence of children’s engagement with ebooks in the sample. In brief, control varied with format, which in turn influenced the distribution of multisensory behaviors and types of communication. Level of behavioral regulation influenced control.

About the Author(s)...


Kathleen Roskos is a professor of education at John Carroll University where she teaches courses in reading assessment and intervention. She studies early literacy development and learning, teacher professional development and the design of professional education for teachers.  Her current research examines ebook pedagogy in early childhood classrooms. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Karen Burstein is the director and senior scientist at Southwest Institute for Families and Children and has extensive experience in project management and program evaluation. She has served as Principal or Co-Investigator on seven federally funded research and demonstration grants within the past 10 years. Her research investigates the impact of instructional interventions on curriculum and student learning.

Byeong-Keun You is a qualitative data analyst at Southwest Institute for Families and Children (SWI). His research interests include early childhood education, early literacy education, heritage-community language education, bilingual education, and multicultural education. 

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