Implementing Augmented Reality to
Increase Reading Comprehension and Interest
Lee A Scott, Education Advisor, 2023
The most recent Nation’s Report Card showed test scores of 4th and 8th graders had dropped three points in three years placing students at the same level as in 1992.1 This is a disturbing trend as the ability to read is a key to success in school, careers, and life. How can we address the issue and use the most current research, methodology and technology to combat the situation?
A recent report on the reading crisis suggests several approaches to provide:
• Opportunities for collaborative environments recognizing reading as a social activity.
• Relevant reading texts and activities to engage students.
• Tools to measure and support students’ progress in vocabulary, comprehension, and other literacy skills; and
• Confidence building for student success.2
This paper proposes an approach that weaves together best practices in reading instruction and intervention using proven methodology with the most recent applications of advanced technology.
Impact of Dialogic Reading
All students need strong vocabulary and comprehension skills to gain knowledge. Research shows participating in a shared reading experience increases students’ understanding and interest in reading. “Children’s engagement during a read aloud can be increased by creating anticipation regarding the story, making predictions about what will happen in the story, making connections with the characters, and by utilizing dialogic reading strategies.”3.
Dialogic reading means having a conversation, or dialog, about the story as the educator reads with the students. The conversation brings the story into the student's world to make it more meaningful. It also supports vocabulary building, language development and reading comprehension. Educators use a series of techniques during a reading session. The key word is “with” rather than “to.” Educators are reading with students rather than to them. The prompts used include answering open-ending questions about the story's characters, main ideas, and events in the story, then asking questions to help clarify or expand on key points. They may ask students to reflect on events in the story and relate them to real life and build on how the students respond. Studies have shown that students’ reading skills gains are significant after educators apply this approach.4,5,6.
The goal of a dialogic approach is to create an environment where the student is an active participant in the reading session. Instead of passively listening while being read to or reading silently alone (which is difficult for reluctant readers), the student is engaged in the story through conversation that helps to make the story, events, and vocabulary more meaningful. This has resulted in skills growth in all areas of language development.7 Students as active participants provide the educator with an instant feedback loop on how the student is using language and comprehending the concepts and ideas in the story. This is vital information to encourage and support the students’ development.
Another benefit of dialogic reading is the positive impact on students’ behavior.8 Poor oral language skills are directly linked to poor reading skills with a negative effect on behavior. Several studies have shown that early language deficits are predictors of future behavioral problems.9,10,11 Researchers theorize that low oral language skills interfere with
development of pragmatic language, leading to behavioral issues. Pragmatic language is the ability to connect with others in conversation on a similar communication level and be understood by others. Initiating a dialogic reading approach provides opportunities for students to discuss concepts from the stories, share ideas and practice pragmatic language skills for long term academic and social benefit.
These specific comprehension strategies create a positive influence on how students internalize information and language. “Those strategies include connecting the known to the unknown, determining importance, questioning, visualizing, inferring, and synthesizing.” 12 When consistently applied, students can deepen their understanding of text and draw conclusions about what they have read, which is an essential literacy skill.
Learning through Storytelling and Characters
Stories and drama help students make sense of their own behavior and that of others, and to develop aspects of emotional intelligence, such as empathy. They also provide opportunities to use different combinations of students’ multiple intelligences (linguistic, visual-spatial, musical, kinesthetic, logical-deductive, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist) as “entry points” to learning. Exploring characters within a story offers a framework for developing social skills such as cooperation, collaboration, listening, and turn taking and helps to create appropriate affective conditions for learning to take place. 13
“Educational approaches from the expressive stance recommend creative activities and peer dialogues that support rich explorations of fictional characters’ inner lives and connections to children’s own feelings and experiences.”14
When students explore characters’ feelings, it helps students build empathy for the characters and helps to develop that skill for real life. They can extend this to their own feelings, seeing themselves in what the characters are doing and thinking. Combined with a dialogic approach, through discussion about the characters, character exploration can result in students wanting to read and learn more as well as to express themselves in the process.
Students also develop social awareness as the characters come alive through discussion. They learn how others live their lives and make sense of the world they live in. The stories can introduce new worlds and encourage new ideas. Developing a deeper understanding of others supports acceptance and appreciation of differences. The characters often deliver messages, whether in fiction or non-fiction, which can be applied to real life.
Reviewing and reflecting on how characters change within a text is an important literacy skill. As students become older, the texts and characters they experience become increasingly complex. It is the characters (or narrators) who are telling the story. Implementing an approach that encourages students to analyze the characters within the story is fundamental for reading comprehension.
Augmented Reality and Reading Comprehension
Augmented reality (AR) is a process introduced in the early 1990s that enhances the real world by implementing computer-generated information (images, graphics, etc.) on top of it. One AR process is called image targeting, where the AR animated image is superimposed over the targeted graphic placing the AR into the real world. This can be seen in book covers, signage, and other applications.15 The experience for the user is engaging and more immersive and often acts as a catalyst for greater interest in the text and improved comprehension of the information.
A recent study reviewing whether conversational agents, such as a robot or other speaker-based tools, have the same impact as using dialogic reading with an educator, cited interesting results. “A conversational agent can replicate the benefits of dialogic reading with a human partner by enhancing children's narrative‐relevant vocalizations, reducing irrelevant vocalizations, and improving story comprehension.16 This application could also be true when using an AR generated character as the agent.
The use of a digital application within a printed book may bring together the best of two worlds; the high interest in technological applications with the continued need to use books in print. Reading printed books yields better reading comprehension than reading digital books.17 Using only digital platforms for reading may not support deep comprehension and learning. The goal is to assist students in becoming more familiar in using digital tools while providing a greater opportunity for interaction with the text (building from a dialogic approach). This is where the AR infused process can come into place.
Although the use of AR in reading education is relatively new, the early results are promising. One recent study of AR in printed books stated “The findings obtained from the quantitative dimension of the study revealed that there was a significant difference between scores of the experimental and control groups in reading comprehension, attitude towards reading, reading motivation and class participation, in favour of the experimental group,” 18 The study results also demonstrated that the AR contributed to improved critical thinking, academic and social language skills creating a higher interest in learning all around.
Application of Research to Practice Using Augmented Reality in Reading
Recent research on the impact of augmented reality demonstrates it can be a valuable learning tool to support skill development in many areas of reading, especially for reluctant readers. “With Augmented reality (AR), one can overlay images, videos, and sounds onto an existing environment (such as a book) to “augment” a real-world scenario.” 18
The most effective approach appears to be one that combines the use of dialogic reading with AR to increase reading comprehension. Such a program would provide context for the reader and support vocabulary development leading to improved retention, comprehension, and test scores. This section of the paper explores how LP Bookspace incorporates this research in a practical format that can be easily implemented in the classroom and beyond.
The AR within LP Bookspace is easy to use. The educators or users download the LP Bookspace app on a smartphone or tablet. They select a book to read. Next, the users hover the device over the cover of the book and the initial AR experience will pop up. The users then continue to read until they get to the next popup illustration in the story and hover the device over that page for the next AR experience. The number of popups and illustrations depends on the book. Some of the picture style books have popups on each page while others, to encourage reading of more text, spread the illustrations out over the chapters.
LP Bookspace applies research on storytelling and dialogic reading by using the popup characters (the AR) to share the stories with the readers. Each popup explains concepts and vocabulary and asks questions to engage the readers with the story. The readers reflect on what was read and check for understanding. There are also natural stops within chapters to give the readers opportunity for breaks in reading, making the text less overwhelming for reluctant readers, leading to improved engagement with the book. The goal is to augment the students’ perception of what they are reading. This enhances their comprehension by making abstract concepts more tangible, easier to understand and more engaging, which improves learning and retention. The use of AR offers opportunities for discussions about the text, the characters and application in real life supporting the development of social language and vocabulary.
Assessing how students are progressing is an important aspect of all learning. LP Bookspace includes a quality tracking and assessment program with the necessary information to evaluate students’ progress and skill development. It enables educators to adapt instruction and focus on skills not yet learned. LP Bookspace’s online dashboard is a secure portal that collects student responses and tracks their progress and engagement. It tracks engagement, time on task, and responses to questions. The assessment on the dashboard is completed in real time while the students are engaging with the book. Real time feedback is invaluable since educators can immediately encourage and support students in the moment ensuring the feedback is meaningful and relevant. In addition to tracking individual students the dashboard helps educators create a classroom view enabling them to group students for extra activities and intervention.
LP Bookspace also includes curricula guides to accompany each book. These guides offer ideas for expanding the learning beyond reading the story and implementing the AR. The guides include vocabulary lists, learning activities for each book chapter, prompts for whole group and small group discussions, expansion lessons to extend learning, and materials lists. The lessons go beyond reading comprehension activities to cover additional skills such as social-emotional development, cognitive thinking, creativity, collaboration and more. The scripts for the popup questions are also available to assist the educators in lesson planning and student support. The curricula guides minimize planning time for the educator making it easy to incorporate LP Bookspace into scheduled reading times.
A bonus of LP Bookspace is an option for educators and librarians to conduct a “meet the maker” session demonstrating how the AR is created. This option is both inspirational and aspirational for students. In a “virtual field trip” students meet with animators, graphic designers, our founders, and our writers, providing a unique behind the scenes view. Students will explore the science behind the AR, how the books are planned and formatted, how features from the book are chosen, etc. They will learn about potential careers in publishing, graphic design, writing, educational programming, and technology.
Augmented reality through LP Bookspace is being introduced in literacy groups in several classrooms throughout the United States. They are in varying stages of implementation. One location is Ms. Olivia Boyer’s fourth grade classroom at Holloman Elementary School in Alamogordo Public Schools in New Mexico. The students received pre and post assessments as well as end of year surveys to measure the impact of reading using augmented reality with LP Bookspace.
There were twenty-four students in the program participating in literacy groups as part of their reading intervention. Ms. Boyer worked with the students once per week in groups of six in one-hour blocks. The program ran for 90 days in March-May 2023. The pre and post assessment tool used was Istation, a software program measuring phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. The books used in the LP Bookspace program included My Father’s Dragon and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Families from 10 of the students allowed the release of the data. 7 of the 10 students showed significant percent increases in the reading comprehension section of the Istation assessment and 6 children were able to move up a level:
3 to 4
3 to 4
1 to 4
3 to 4
3 to 5
At Level 2
4 to 5
At Level 2
At Level 2
5 to 4
Ms. Boyer also conducted a post survey of students’ opinions in using LPB. The students were asked to answer one question and provide additional feedback. The results of the survey are:
Does reading a books with popup characters help you better understand what you are reading?
Sample of qualitative student responses were:
• It helped me remember what the story was about.
• I liked that it would ask you questions.
• I liked it a lot because the characters talk to me and ask me things to help me understand and to see if I understand.
• I like that the characters pop out of the book and that it gives me questions to answer it helps on my comprehension
Most students appreciated the use of the characters to connect with the story and asking for responses from the readers.
Ms. Boyer implemented the program through small group instruction due to the limited access to technology for all students and their age level. She used her smart phone and projected the LPB AR on a flat screen monitor. She stated this was a great solution since the students not only interacted with the AR, but they also interacted with each other by supporting the use of the AR and discussing the answers to the questions.
Parents were given an overview of AR with LP Bookspace demonstrating how it is used along with the titles of the books. This helped to expand the learning with a school to home connection. The parents’ responses were very positive and expressed no concerns about using augmented reality in this manner.
Ms. Boyer reported that the use of the AR in LP Bookspace is a great solution to transitioning young students from picture books to chapter books. The AR helps students maintain an interest in the stories, reduces frustration by breaking up the stories in an authentic manner, and provides opportunities for discussion resulting in improved reading comprehension and vocabulary development.
Olvia Boyer noted, “The kids were just absorbed. They thought it was the coolest thing ever. And as a teacher, it was really cool to see data showing that we were having an increase in comprehension.” The case study demonstrates the applied research of using augmented reality as a conversational agent and how an educator may adapt the process to meet the needs of the individual students.
Considerable progress has been made in applying innovative technology to current educational problems. One such approach builds on what we know works in reading instruction such as using a dialogic approach and combining it with augmented reality to further engage students. LP Bookspace meets the criteria listed in at the beginning of this paper on the optimal approach to reading intervention by providing:
• Opportunities for collaborative environments recognizing reading as a social activity.
o LP Bookspace includes breaks using the AR to explore the text and acts as a catalyst for building language skills and engaging proactively in discussions.
• Relevant reading texts and activities to engage students.
o LP Bookspace brings fresh perspective through the AR bringing the characters to life and lesson guides to engage the reader and helping make connections to the real world.
• Tools to measure and support students’ progress in vocabulary, comprehension, and other literacy skills.
o The LP Bookspace dashboard provides educators with real-time progress reports allowing them to give immediate and relevant feedback at the exact time when students need it.
• Confidence building for student success.
o LP Bookspace supports even the most reluctant reader by creating a more engaging reading experience thus building confidence as the learner moves forward.
The LP Bookspace experience encourages a new generation of strong readers. “This is the first 21st century tool I’ve seen that can affect change.” Barbara Freeman, Former Executive Superintendent New York City Schools
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