Effect of E-books on Reading Level, Reading Behaviors and Attitudes of Second Grade Students

Nov 13th, 2018 | Category: Research in Education, Today's Lutheran Educator
By Annette VanAken

Teaching reading is a primary focus for elementary educators and administrators. A foundational skill for school-based learning, reading is critical to future academic and vocational opportunities (Lesnick, Gorerge, Smithgall, & Gwynne, 2010). Yet, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP) report, sixty-six percent of fourth graders in the United States are reading below a proficient level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). Educational efforts have been made to address this issue as research has indicated that students reading below grade level in third grade continue to struggle throughout their academic activities (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996) and are more likely to be unemployed or earn incomes below the poverty level than students reading at or above grade level (Kutner, Greensberg, Boyle, Hsu, & Dunleavy, 2007). Recognizing the need to increase reading levels and to reduce the achievement gap by end of third grade, the United States Department of Education adopted the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) revised in 2015 as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to guide educators. An additional critical component of these laws for educators is the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2001 (EETT), designed to assist every student in becoming technology literate by the end of eighth grade (Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2001, 2002).

Long-term effects of reading ability outcomes and policies requiring technology integration have increased the purchase of technology tools such as mobile devices in the K‒12 school systems (Gray, Thomas, & Lewis, 2010). However, evidence indicating the effectiveness of reading on mobile devices in different instructional reading environments is needed. In the 2012 Horizon report, Johnson, Adams, and Cummins (2012) suggested tablets as an alternative learning format to print materials for K‒12 institutions and described them as ideal devices for learning because of their portability, display, and touch screens. In particular, Johnson, Smith, Willis, Levine, and Heywood (2011) projected widespread e-book adoption within one year or less due to the increased access to mobile devices, suggesting the potential of e-books to transform the reading experience. As adoption of e-books read on personal hand-held devices increases in PreK‒12 classrooms, examining how this reading format affects the learners’ reading levels, reading attitudes, and reading behaviors in different instructional reading environments is imperative. As reading acquisition is not an innate ability but a complex learned process (Dehaene & Cohen, 2007), researchers and educators search to discover the most effective reading practices and tools to teach reading.

Theoretical Basis of this Study

The theoretical bases for this research examining reading levels, reading attitudes, and reading behavior are the perspectives of cognitive-load theory and social-cognitive theory. These two theoretical perspectives provide support for technology to support literacy development, particularly through the use of e-books on hand-held devices. More specifically, e-books on hand-held devices may support (a) cognitive-load reading level, (b) reading attitudes, and (c) reading behaviors.

Cognitive load theorists have posited that human cognitive architecture consists of a limited working memory that interacts with a comparatively unlimited long-term memory (Leahy & Sweller, 2011; Paas, Tuovinen, Tabbers, & Van Gerven, 2003; Sweller, 1988, 2011). On its own, working memory has serious capacity and duration limits that allow for the processing of minor cognitive activities; however, these limitations are eliminated when working memory interacts with cognitive schemata (Paas & Sweller, 2012). Depending on the schemata of the readers, material that is complex for one individual may be simple for another (Sweller, 2010b). When extraneous cognitive load exceeds working-memory capacity, meaning breaks down for the reader (Sweller, 2010b). The opportunity to build fluency through highlighting phrases and individual words, in alignment with Vygotsky’s (1978) ZPD, may provide the reader with the means to co-construct meaning through interaction with the materials, thus supporting the development of the reader’s schemata. Likewise, it is possible that the features of e-books presented within the learner’s ZPD may serve to scaffold learning to support the readers’ actual developmental level and their potential developmental levels (Abdullah, Hussin, Asra & Zakaria, 2013). These assistive features do not exist in traditional books, leaving the reader to access assistance from another individual or to move on without support.

Social-cognitive theory and Bandura’s (1986, 1999) emphasis on triadic reciprocal determinism are the theoretical bases for examining reading attitude and behavior in this study. Bandura (1986, 1999) posited both that the environment influences thoughts and behaviors, and that thoughts and behaviors affect the environment. Attitudinal and behavioral changes are best accomplished through conditional changes fostering the desired behaviors (Bandura, 1986). Utilizing mobile devices affords a personal and authentic learning and a behavioral experience for the learner different from the traditional learning environment (Shapley, Sheehan, Maloney, & Caranikas-Walker, 2010). Thus, the readers’ attitudes may be influenced by the readers’ behavioral changes from the e-book instructional reading environment. E-books on personal devices have the potential to provide a private, individualized reading experience influencing the reader’s willingness to spend time reading. This change in reading behavior can lead to increased comprehension, potentially influencing the readers’ attitudes toward reading.

E-books have the potential to influence learning outcomes. However, before educators begin to use e-books for reading instruction in K–12 classrooms, more evidence regarding their effect on reading level, behaviors, and attitude is necessary.

Significance of the Study

The current research represents a study essential for future adoption of e-books for reading instruction in the elementary classroom. Mandates from NCLB, ESSA, and the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2001 (2002) have elementary educators and researchers interested in the integration of technology to enhance instruction. To meet the mandate to integrate technology, educators have included e-books to support reading, although research indicating e-books’ effectiveness at different levels of literacy development is lacking. Particularly important to this study is the presentation of e-books on hand-held devices offering a new instructional reading environment for students. As literacy experiences prior to third grade are critical to the learners’ future academic success, the widespread use of e-books as an instructional tool is dangerous without guidance gleaned from research results.

This research adds to the current knowledge base as the instructional reading environment of e-books on hand-held devices is largely absent from past research. Studies on the effect of e-books on early literacy skills have focused on stationary computer e-book encounters (Doty, Popplewell, & Byers, 2001; Korat & Shamir, 2012). As school systems and educators move toward the use of more technology in their pedagogy, this study contributes to knowledge regarding e-book implementation. To date most research utilizing e-books has focused on beginning, emergent-literacy reading skills and comprehension (de Jong & Bus, 2002; Korat, Segal-Drori, & Klien, 2009; Korat & Shamir, 2008). Segal-Drori, Korat, Shamir, and Klein (2010) have recommended expanding studies to second graders at different levels of literacy acquisition with adult support. This research provides information addressing a gap in the literature by using second-grade readers with transitional reading skills as the target population.

Determining the effect of e-books on reading attitudes contributes information to the gap in the literature. Several authors have suggested that attitudes toward reading affect the readers’ academic performances through their influence on reading behaviors (Allen, Cipielewski, & Stanovich, 1992; Askov & Fischbach, 1973; Kaniuka, 2010; Martinez, Aricak, & Jewell, 2008). This study addressed the need to explore the inconsistent findings about the correlation of reading attitude to reading behaviors (Guthrie, Wigfield, Metsala, & Cox, 1999; Kush,, Watkins, & Brookhart, 2005: Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997), while expanding knowledge about reading attitudes to the digital environment. Furthermore, connections to pedagogical practices regarding learner choice might be increased if research can shed some light on the influence that e-book access in the classroom has on reading attitude and behavior.

Research Questions

R1: Does a statistically significant difference exist in reading level scores
among the instructional reading environments?

a. Use of e-books only in both instruction and practice?

b. Use of e-books during instruction, with a choice of e-books and
traditional books during practice?

c. Use of traditional books during instruction, with a choice of e-books
and traditional books during practice?

  d. Use of traditional books only in both instruction and practice while
controlling for pretest scores?

R2: Does a statistically significant difference exist in reading attitude scores
among the instructional reading environments, while controlling for
pretest scores?

R3: Does a statistically significant difference exist in reading behavior among
conditions based on the medium in which second grade readers receive
reading instruction, and read independently and for practice as related to
the four reading environments?

Method

A quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest, non-equivalent control group study was utilized to determine if a statistically significant difference exists in independent reading levels when using e-books versus traditional books utilizing the perspective of cognitive-load theory. Additionally a quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest, non-equivalent control group study was used to determine if a statistically significant difference in reading attitude when using e-books versus traditional books using the perspective of social cognitive theory. The purpose of the post-test only, non-equivalent control group study was to determine if a statistically significant difference exists in reading behaviors when utilizing e-books versus traditional books from the perspective of social-cognitive theory.

Intact classes were used for this study. Prior to the start of the school year, teachers and administrators worked together to place students in classrooms that balanced academic achievement levels, discipline issues, and other special needs. The goal of the placement process was to establish homogeneous classrooms with equal numbers of high, middle, and low achieving students in each classroom. Because these classrooms were organized in such a deliberate manner, randomization of students was not possible as is common in educational research conducted in classroom settings (Kraska, 2010). Thus, the quasi-experimental design was convenient and not disruptive to the educational setting. Although random assignment was not possible in the educational setting, the design employed in this study was acceptable (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2007).

Variables and Instrumentation

The independent variable, instructional reading environment, is operationally defined as use of the e-book or traditional print book format. For the purpose of this study, e-books were defined as online, multimedia storybooks with audio narration, animation, and highlighted text features (Roskos, Brueck, & Widman, 2009) and check-for-understanding questions. Four instructional reading environments were used: (a) e-books only-used during small group instruction and independent practice, (b) e-books and traditional books-e-books used during small group instruction, e-books and traditional books during independent classroom practice, (c) e-books and traditional books- traditional books used during small group instruction, e-books and traditional books during independent classroom practice, and (d) traditional books only-used during small group reading instruction and independent reading practice. The leveled e-books used for this study were books accessed through the Raz-Kids website (http://www.raz-kids.com/). This online website allowed students access to book titles at their independent reading level. For the purpose of this study, traditional books were defined as leveled paper-format books.

The dependent variable for research-question one was reading level as measured by the DRA2 (Beaver & Carter, 2010). The DRA2 is designed to analyze a student’s reading accuracy, comprehension level, and oral reading fluency yielding an independent reading level in grades K‒8 (Beaver & Carter, 2010). The DRA2 assessment books are traditional print-format books. Each book is leveled based on the following criteria: (a) inclusion of repetitive language, (b) story structure, (c) literary features, (d) story appeal, concepts, vocabulary, and common experiences of primary students, (e) picture support level, and (f) text size, layout, line and words per page (Beaver & Carter, 2009). The basic format of the assessment includes four steps: (a) the teacher introduces the text, (b) the student reads the first two to four paragraphs aloud while the teacher records word miscues and records reading time, (c) the student reads the remaining text silently, and (d) the student retells the story or shares story information with the teacher (Beaver & Carter, 2010). Reading level was operationally defined as the combined score of reading accuracy, comprehension, and ORF components of the DRA2. These DRA2 scores were combined to formulate the individual reader’s independent reading level. DRA2  is used to “(a) assess reading engagement, oral reading fluency, and comprehension, (b) identify reading strengths and weaknesses, (c) determine students’ reading levels, (d) inform reading instruction, (e) monitor progress in reading, and (f) aid in planning reading interventions” (Beaver & Carter, 2010, p. 182). For this study, independent reading level was assessed by combining accuracy, comprehension, and oral-reading fluency scores. The DRA2 served as the pretest and posttest. The DRA2 pretest served as the covariate and was statistically controlled in the analysis for the research question one.

The dependent variable for research-question two was reading attitude as measured by the ERAS (McKenna & Kear, 1990). The assessment was standardized, based on a sample of first through sixth grade students, therefore a valid assessment tool for second grade students (Worrell, Roth, & Gabelko, 2007). The ERAS is a teacher-administered survey developed to assess student’s recreational and academic reading attitudes (McKenna & Kear, 1990). Attitudes toward reading were chosen as a key factor in this study. Researchers have shown that attitudes develop over time, tending to be more positive in younger children, become less positive with age, and are related to the level of reading competency (McKenna et al., 1995). The ERAS consists of 20 statements assessing two components of reading attitude, (a) recreational reading and (b) academic reading (McKenna & Kear, 1990). The recreational-reading construct focused on reading outside the school setting. The academic-reading construct focused on reading in the school setting (McKenna & Kear, 1990). The ERAS served as the pre and posttest. The ERAS pretest served as the covariate and was statistically controlled for in the analysis for the research-question two.

The dependent variable for research-question three was student reading behaviors. Reading behaviors were measured by minutes engaged in reading documented on personal reading logs used in the classroom. Similar to research reported by Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988), student independent reading was recorded utilizing self‐report reading logs recording the number of minutes read each day as well as the book title and author’s name. To better assess time spent reading for pleasure, reading logs distinguished between assigned reading books and books read by choice (Taylor, Frye & Maruyama, 1990). Daily log entries were tabulated and calculated by two means: mean number of minutes read for practice in school and mean number of minutes for assigned reading in school. Using these data, the researcher was able to look at relationships between assigned and practice reading. Teachers daily reviewed classroom reading logs. By signing the reading logs each day, teachers verified that participants engaged in reading for the time recorded. Total number of minutes read for each participant was analyzed to assess the relationship to reading attitudes and instructional reading environments.

Demographics and Sampling

The participants for the study were recruited from second-grade classrooms from a rural, Title 1 elementary school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2011), the school’s enrollment in pre-school through second grade was approximately 389 students. In this Title-I-school’s population, approximately 67% of the students were eligible for free or reduced lunches, which was 19% higher than reported by the state of Michigan (VanOrman, 2013). The school population’s ethnic diversity consisted of 94% Caucasian students with a Caucasian population of 96 % in the second grade; Hispanic students accounted for 3% of the student population, with 2% of the second-grade students being Hispanic, African American students accounted for 3% of the student population, with 2% of second graders being African American.

Summary of Results

An ANCOVA was used to test the null hypothesis for research question #1: Does a statistically-significant difference exist in reading level scores among the instructional reading environments, i.e., (a) e-books only in both instruction and practice, (b) e-books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice, (c) traditional books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice, and (d) traditional books only in both instruction and practice while controlling for pretest scores? Results indicated that a statistically-significant difference in reading level among the instructional-reading environments did exist. More specifically, results indicated that a statistically significant difference existed between two of the intervention groups. Second grade participants in the e-books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice treatment group (group b), displayed significantly higher reading levels when compared to second grade participants in the traditional books only (group d) control group. Statistically significance differences were not indicated at a p > 0.0125 among the three treatment groups. While the Bonferroni test has been traditionally used to control for family-wide error as it is straightforward, it is important to note that the Bonferroni test is considered to be overly conservative by many researchers (Rice, 1989). Results provided statistical evidence to support the inclusion of e-books for reading instruction to improve reading level in this study’s research sample. Although the results did not provide statistical support for all instructional reading environments, results indicated that treatment groups’ reading levels were not adversely affected when compared to the control group. This study did not investigate physical environment, teacher-student relationship, or e-book features that participants utilized during instruction and practice. As past researchers suggested, e-book features can scaffold reading, thus support comprehension (Doty et al., 2001; Korat & Shamir, 2012; Matthew, 1996; Pearman, 2008). The physical environment and teacher-student relationship may have contributed to the non-significant results. The physical environment of each classroom varied in size and organization, possibly influencing the ease with which the reading devices were retrieved. In addition, differences in teacher-student interactions were observed that may have influenced the students’ levels of engagement.

An ANCOVA was used to test the null hypothesis for research question #2: Does a statistically-significant difference exist in reading attitude scores among the instructional reading environments while controlling for pretest scores?  Results indicated that a statistically-significant difference existed in reading attitude scores based on instructional reading environment. Participants in the e-books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice instructional reading environment (group b) had significantly lower reading-attitudes scores than participants in the traditional books during instruction with a choice of e-books and the traditional only during instruction and practice (group c) instructional reading environments. The results did not indicate that all treatment groups showed statistical support for the use of e-books in instructional reading environments to enhance reading attitudes compared to the control group, as the lower score indicated a negative effect. However, results suggested that the instructional reading environment did not adversely affect reading attitudes for two of the treatment instructional reading environments when compared to the control group. This researcher questions whether the teacher instructional experience was an influencing factor for these results. Past research indicated that expert teachers’ classroom environments differ from those of novice teachers’ classroom environments (O’Connor, Fish, & Yasik, 2004; Webster, 2010). Although none of the teachers was a novice teacher, differences were present in the years of teaching experience within the four classrooms ranging from 13–20 years. This researcher became aware that the teacher for the e-book during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books for practice treatment group was just completing her second year as a second grade teacher and feeling a level of stress regarding her students’ reading achievement. Although experience and social and emotional factors were not directly tested in this study, an analysis might have provided insight into why reading-attitudes scores for this treatment decreased from pre- to post-test.

Although the physical environments or the teacher-student relationship were not analyzed in this study, the researcher observed differences among the four groups. Although all students had equivalent access to e-books, classrooms varied in size and organization, possibly influencing the ease with which the reading devices could be retrieved. Physical environment contributes to the learners’ enjoyment and learning outcomes (Berris & Miller, 2011). Information regarding the relationship between the teacher and the students could possibly influence student attitudes, as researchers have indicated the importance of teacher‒student relationship to academic achievement and engagement (Roorda, Koomen, Spilt, & Oort, 2011). Regardless of this information, results provided support for reading instructional environments to include the integration of e-books.

An ANOVA was used to test the null hypothesis for research question #3:  Does a statistically significant difference exist in reading behavior among conditions based on the medium in which second-grade readers receive reading instruction, and read independently and for practice as related to the four reading environments. Results indicated that no statistically significant differences in reading behaviors based on reading instructional environment were present. Second-grade students in this study’s treatment-group population did not display significantly different reading behaviors than second graders in the control group. The effect size for reading behaviors was small at 0.01 and power of 0.05. This researcher determined that the instructional reading environment was trivial. Although reading behaviors were not improved by using e-books in different instructional reading environments, the use of e-books did not negatively affect reading behaviors. Therefore, the use of e-books within the reading instructional environment should be considered.

Relationship to Prior Research

The results of this study regarding reading level were similar to those found in other studies, possibly due to the connection to e-book features (Ertem, 2010; Pearman, 2008; Verhallen, Bus, & de Jong, 2006). Previous research regarding e-books’ effects on reading comprehension, a component of reading level has noted the potential of e-books’ features to build or activate more complex schemata allowing more in-depth levels of reading comprehension (Ertem, 2010; Pearman, 2008; Verhallen et al., 2006). The possibility is strong that features of e-books presented on hand-held devices share similar supportive features. These features, such as animated illustrations instead of static illustrations, may provide scaffolding for the reader (Ertem, 2010). Furthermore, the synergy created within the multimedia e-book instructional-reading environment including the highlighting of words while the narrator reads the text as well as adult support during and after reading may contribute to the statistically significant results indicating that the instructional-reading environment influences reading level (Korat,  Segal-Drori, & Klien, 2009).

The results of this study indicated a statistically-significant difference existed in reading attitudes among instructional-reading environments; this difference was only significant for the e-books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice instructional reading environment. This instructional reading environment had significantly lower reading attitudes scores than participants in the traditional books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice and traditional books only instructional reading environments. Previous research conducted by Esteves and Whitten (2011) suggested that greater reading growth is not an indicator of positive changes in reading attitudes. It is also possible that the e-books provided through the Raz-Kids website did not meet the participants’ reading interests, therefore affecting the readers’ attitudes toward reading (Esteves & Whitten, 2011). However, instructional-reading environments including e-books only during instruction and practice (group a) provided equivalent support to e-books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice (group b), traditional books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice (group c), and traditional books only during instruction and practice (group d). An additional possibility for the results of this study on reading attitudes could be the role ergonomics played in the students’ reading attitudes. Past researchers suggested that ergonomics played a critical role in students’ interactions with technology (Dockrell, Earle, & Galvin, 2010). Although the results did not indicate that reading attitudes improved with the use of e-books, the results do suggest that e-books affect reading attitudes. While attempts to control for all of the cognitive and academic variables in the classroom, the social-emotional variables, including the dynamics between the teacher and the participants, were not accounted for. Past researchers Snyder, Acock, Vuchinich, Beets, Washburn, and Flay, (2013) suggested social-emotional components influence students’ attitudes and behaviors. Thus, reading attitudes within an e-book instructional reading environment require further investigation.

The current study’s null hypothesis that no statistically significant difference in reading behaviors based on the instructional reading environment condition was exploratory. Previous research conducted on reading behaviors was concerned with the number of pages read by participants, indicating that average and below average readers selected books of similar length resulting in fewer pages completed by the below-average participants (Anderson, et al., 1985). This information may account for the lack of statistical difference identified within this study as book-reading levels for all participants were set according to the individual students’ instructional reading level. In addition, the fact that data were only collected within the school environment may have contributed to the findings that reading behaviors showed no significant differences among the instructional reading environments. The possibility is strong that extra reading time was limited within the school setting, thus creating conditions where differences would be minimal. Examining reading behaviors within the home environment where free time for reading activities might be more readily available may provide additional insight into the effects of e-books on reading behaviors. Prior research has indicated that the home reading environment plays a critical role in students’ reading behaviors and attitudes toward reading (Katzir, Lesaux, & Kim, 2009), while the amount of reading has been shown to increase when e-books are taken home (Oakley & Jay, 2008).

Practical Implications

The results of this study, specifically related to research questions 1 and 3 regarding reading level and reading behavior, provide support for the purchase and integration of e-books into the elementary school instructional reading environment. These findings contribute to the growing evidence of e-books’ effectiveness to support reading instruction. Given these results regarding reading level, educators and administrators who have access to instructional funds or access to personal hand-held reading devices should consider the purchase of e-books and/or classroom sets of personal hand-held reading devices such as iPads for the purpose of reading instruction. Because reading levels of the participants using e-books on personal hand-held devices were positively affected in some e-books environments, educators and administrators might want to consider transitioning from traditional-books-only instructional-reading environments to instructional-reading environment that include e-books. In addition, this study provides statistical evidence that  reading environments using either e-books or traditional books provide equivalent support for second-grade readers’ reading behaviors. Within this study’s results, no statistically significant difference was indicated in participants’ reading behaviors among the instructional-reading environments. Since the integration of e-books into the instructional-reading environment did not adversely influence reading behaviors, educators with access to e-books should consider using them for reading instruction. Although results indicated a statistically significant difference for reading attitudes among instructional-reading environments, the results did not favorably support the use of e-books, thus further investigation is necessary. Given these mixed results, educators and administrators should carefully consider the costs associated with the transition to e-book instructional-reading environments for second-grade students. However, if funds are available to purchase instructional materials, e-books and hand-held devices should be considered.

Educational environments are changing. In the 2011 Horizon report Johnson et al., (2011) projected widespread e-book adoption within one year or less, followed by the 2012 Horizon report, in which Johnson, Adams, and Summins (2012) suggested tablets as an alternative learning format to print materials. Most recently in the 2014 Horizon report, Johnson, Adams, Estrada, and Freeman (2014) predicted the rapid acceleration of intuitive technology such as the touch screens available on personal devices like iPads to be integrated into the classroom while the role of the teacher as a mentor to promote student-centered learning will occur over the next year or two. This study’s results provide statistical evidence that e-book instructional-reading environments can support second graders’ reading levels and reading behaviors and in some instructional-reading environments such as the e-book-only during instruction and practice and traditional books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice, provide equivalent support for reading attitudes to traditional-book environments. Although integration of e-books is recommended, given the results that reading attitudes were significantly lower for the e-books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice, than traditional books only during instruction and practice, and traditional books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice, it is also recommended that the less than favorable reading attitudes be investigated and addressed as not to negate the positive results.

Assumptions and Limitations

This quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest, non-equivalent control group and posttest-only non-equivalent control group design research attempted to limit the threats to internal and external validity. Through experimental design for the pretest-posttest, non-equivalent control group this study attempted to account for the participants’ selection bias, history, maturation, and differential mortality. However, the limitations need to be recognized.

The current study needs to be interpreted in light of the study’s limitations. Since intact second-grade classrooms were utilized, the lack of random assignment and the selection threat to validity due to non-equivalent groups were limiting factors and threats to internal validity (Dimitrov & Rumrill, 2003; Gall et al., 2007). However, all second-grade students who returned consent forms and signed assent forms had the opportunity to participate as this study did not exclude any second grade student. In addition, the pretests as covariates for hypotheses 1 and 2 provided control for initial differences between the control and three treatment groups. The short-term nature of the study (four weeks), the inclusion of a control group selected from the same population as the treatment groups and classrooms homogeneous for gender, academic ability, and behaviors account for the threats to history and maturation. Regardless, the results are only generalized to the sample population for this study (Shadish, Cook & Campbell, 2002.)

The Elementary Reading Attitudes Survey (ERAS) (McKenna & Kear, 1990) was a self-report measure, and it was assumed that the participants responded with true reflection of their overall satisfaction with reading. Past research results have indicated the ERAS is an effective tool for measuring reading attitudes for students in grades 1 through 6 (McKenna & Kear, 1990; McKenna et al., 1990). However, it is possible that participants may have been vulnerable to personal or environmental influences that may have swayed their responses (Borgers, de Leeuw, & Hox, 2000).

As an inherent threat to internal validity, the effects of repeated testing were minimized through the use of different equivalent forms of the DRA2 for dependent-variable reading level. The ERAS survey of reading attitudes did not provide an alternative equivalent survey. However, in the posttest-only non-equivalent control group design used to examine reading behaviors, no covariate was possible.

Homogenous groups were used to limit the selection threat to validity. A comparison proportion of gender groups for each of the four independent-variable levels via chi-square test of independence, as well as comparisons of the mean scores on the pretest DRA2 and ERAS measurements used as covariates, were performed to establish that the four reading environments were homogenous as relates to gender, thus helping to ensure against a selection threat to validity.

External-validity concerns limit the generalizability given the fact that this study only included second graders from a rural southern-Michigan school. Of the 100 students, 88 second-grade parents and students returned the consent and assent forms to participate. It was determined that for a large effect size of f = 0.40, a sample of 81 records would be required. All students who returned consent forms and signed assent forms were eligible to participate in the study. This study did not account for the participants that declined participation as they may have differed from the sample population. In addition, a convenience sample was used with intact groups. Therefore, the results are only applicable to the current sample population (Shadish et al., 2002).

External validity was further threatened by the demographics of the community of the town in which the study took place. Results might differ had the population displayed more variances in ethnicity, as past researchers have indicated ethnicity as a critical component influencing student achievement as it is often associated with socioeconomic status (van Steensel, 2006). In addition, the socio-economic level of the participants and the dependent variables may have affected the study results. Researchers Kayiran, and Karabay (2012) suggested that socio-economic status plays a critical role in reading comprehension, favoring of children from high socio-economic status families.

The self-reporting nature of the reading logs to measure reading behaviors posed a threat to the external validity for the study. It was assumed that participants’ responses were true representations of their reading time. However, the self-report measure was a limitation in that the researcher could not guarantee the reports were free from external influences and that they were accurately and honestly completed (Campbell & Stanley, 1963).

Additional threats to external validity were the novelty and Hawthorne effect. The novelty of the iPads for direct instructional purposes posed a threat to external validity. Although participants had utilized iPads within the classroom, teacher instructional practice differences prior to the study may have influenced the participants’ use of e-books since they are different from the normal instructional-reading format (Gall et al., 2007). Finally, the Hawthorne effect was a possible external-validity threat, as blinding was not utilized. Parents, participants and teachers knew which treatment they were receiving and understood what the study was designed to measure, which may have caused them to act uncharacteristically, increasing their efforts to improve literacy skills (Gall, et al., 2007).

Recommendations for Future Research

Future investigations regarding the effectiveness of e-books to support young readers is necessary to continue to provide important information regarding their use in instructional environments. It is recommended that researchers consider investigating the e-book instructional-reading environment’s effect on comprehension, fluency and accuracy as separate dependent variables. The current study investigated the effect e-book instructional-reading environments had on reading levels: a composite score of oral reading fluency, reading comprehension, and reading accuracy. Therefore, only the aggregate score, not scores for each individual item of the DRA2, were included in the study dataset. It is possible that the effect of these instructional-reading environments had a different effect on the individual components as past researchers have suggested that e-books increase reading comprehension (Doty et al., 2001; Korat & Shamir, 2012; Matthew, 1996; Pearman, 2008).

An additional recommendation for future research is to extend the current study to include participants’ gender. This current study’s small sample size did not allow for the investigation of gender. However, past researchers examining on reading attitudes reported gender differences in reading attitudes in traditional-print book-reading environments (Martinez et al. 2008).

Summary and Conclusion

The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of e-book instructional reading environments on the reading levels, reading attitudes, and reading behaviors of second-grade students. Results indicated participants in e-books during instruction with a choice of e-books and traditional books during practice displayed significant reading level gains on the DRA2 when compared to the control group using traditional books only for instruction and practice. Participants in the e-books during instruction with a choice during practice displayed significant differences in reading attitudes as measured by the ERAS scores when compared to the traditional-books-only control group as well as with the traditional books during instruction, with a choice during practice group. No statically significant differences in reading behaviors were found for the four instructional reading environments.

These results suggest that educators, administrators and school district personnel should consider e-books on personal devices as an alternative to traditional books. Educators and administrators should consider a transition toward the integration of the e-books in the instructional reading environment. Personal hand-held devices increase access, portability, and personalization of e-book reading-instruction environments, previously unavailable through stationary desktop computers and CD-ROM e-books. While this study supports integration when considering reading level and reading behavior, more investigation is still needed to address the attitude concern. LEJ

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Author Information

Annette VanAken earned her Ed.D. at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA in Curriculum and Instruction. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in the College of Graduate Studies at Concordia University Chicago. Dr. VanAken is the program leader for several masters and doctoral courses and represents the University as a member of the ISBE Early Childhood Peer Review Team.

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