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THE EARLY LITERACY PROJECT
The Early Literacy Project at Hollins University is a collaboration between Dr. Tiffany Pempek (Psychology) and Dr. Anna Baynum (Education). The goals of this project are to develop evidenced-based books that promote reading with infants and toddlers. Our first book, Four Fur Feet, was published in the fall of 2018 utilizing a manuscript from Hollins alumna and Goodnight Moon author Margaret Wise Brown. Original artwork for this book was created by Ruth Sanderson, children’s book illustrator and co-director of the MFA program in children’s book writing and illustrating at Hollins. We are currently working on our second book, Slow Time, Hush Time, with a student writer and a student illustrator from the children’s book writing and illustrating MFA program. We are also conducting a research study to assess the effectiveness of our first book, Four Fur Feet. This study is a collaboration with Dr. Sara Whipple (Psychology at Virginia Military Institute) to explore how parents read with their toddlers and what ideas parents have about reading with young children.
ATTENTION TO SCREEN MEDIA
We are interested in the development of selective attention to video and how this development influences comprehension of screen media content. In a recent study of visual attention in infants 6 to 24 months of age, we found that young children do not begin to discriminate between comprehensible and incomprehensible television until approximately 18 months (Pempek et al., 2010). We plan to follow up this work with studies of attention to interactive screen media that measure attention both behaviorally (i.e., visual attention) and physiologically (i.e., heart rate).
Pempek, T. A., Kirkorian, H. L., Richards, J. E., Anderson, D. R., Lund, A. F., & Stevens, M. (2010). Video comprehensibility and attention in very young children. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1283-1293.
IMPACT OF BACKGROUND TELEVISION ON TOY PLAY AND PARENT-CHILD INTERACTION
Our research on media impact emphasizes the distinction between foreground television (i.e., programs to which children pay substantial attention, often child-directed) and background television (i.e., programs to which children pay little attention, often designed for older viewers). One series of laboratory experiments investigated the impact of background television (adult-directed programs such as Jeopardy!) on solitary toy play and parent-child interaction in 12-, 24-, and 36-month-old children. We found that when the television was on, there were reductions in children's sustained toy play and focused attention (Schmidt et al., 2008) as well as the quantity and quality of parent interactions (Kirkorian et al., 2009). Background television also negatively affected the quantity and quality of parental speech directed towards young children (Pempek et al., 2014). These studies suggest two mechanisms by which background television may have a negative impact on subsequent cognitive development: reduced sustained attention during toy play and poorer quality of social interactions with parents. Our research continues to explore the impact of background television. We are currently collecting data to assess whether background television content that differs in production features (e.g., audio or visual changes) effects very young children in distinct ways.
Pempek, T. A., Kirkorian, H. L., & Anderson, D. R. (2014). The effects of background television on the quantity and quality of child-directed speech by parents. Journal of Children and Media. DOI: 10.1080/17482798.2014.920715
Kirkorian, H. L., Pempek, T. A., Murphy, L. A., Schmidt, M. E., & Anderson, D. R. (2009). The impact of background television on parent-child interaction. Child Development, 80, 1350-1359.
Schmidt, M. E., Pempek, T. A., Kirkorian, H. L., Frankenfield, A. F., & Anderson, D. R. (2008). The effects of background television on the toy play behavior of very young children. Child Development, 79, 1137-1151.
TODDLERS' TOUCHSCREEN USE AND LEARNING FROM INTERACTIVE VIDEO
This line of research extends from an explanation of young children’s use of touchscreen devices, such as iPads and smartphones, to learning from interactive versus non-interactive video using touchscreen devices. In one recent study, we investigated the extent to which young children can learn from video-based information (e.g., word learning) depending on the extent of children’s interactions with the screen. Preliminary findings suggest that interactive video may facilitate increased screen-based learning by very young children. We are following up on this research to determine the extent to which cognitive control (e.g., working memory, inhibition) moderates toddlers’ learning from touchscreen devices.
Kirkorian, H. L., & Pempek, T. A. (2013). Toddlers and touch screens: Potential for early learning? Zero to Three, 33, 32-37.
Recent Conference Presentations:
Kirkorian, H. L., Choi, K., & Pempek, T. A. (2013, April), Toddlers’ word-learning from contingent vs. non-contingent video on touchscreens. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA.
> The Early Literacy Project
> Attention to Screen Media
> Impact of Background TV
> Toddlers' Touchscreen Use
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