As with all problems of transfer, the problem solver must recognize similarities between what was originally learned and the new context—in this case, similar features of problems. The child must also recognize the solution in the story as a representation of a problem solution that is potentially relevant to events beyond the book context. Symbolic reasoning may help children recognize that information is symbolic and transferrable, and analogical reasoning skills may help children identify potentially relevant contexts for transfer.
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Thus, we may expect children's skills in these areas to be especially relevant when transferring problem solutions from stories to the real world. An interesting feature of problem-solution transfer is that is can often occur after a substantial delay. A child may not encounter a relevant real-world problem until days, weeks, or even months after reading the story. The child must recall and recognize the abstract similarities between the story problem and the problem they face that goes beyond the surface features of the two problems.
For example, a story character may retrieve a ball stuck in a rafter using a broom. The child may later use a similar strategy to retrieve a ball stuck in a tree using a hockey stick. As we discuss in more detail below, children's ability to distinguish fantasy and reality may also influence their transfer of problem solutions.
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Problem solutions present in fantastical stories can be relevant to the real world, and children with a better grasp of possibility may be better able to apply solutions from fantasy to the real world. Children who approach fantastical events with skepticism are unlikely to transfer solutions from these types of stories. In problem solving tasks that can be solved with some reliance on visual similarity, pictorial realism can impact young children's transfer. Books that incorporate pictures that are more similar to real objects, like photographs, help children align book objects with their real-world referents, and transfer skills they have learned from a book.
Simcock and DeLoache showed , , and month-olds a picture book which portrayed the assembly of a ball, jar, and stick into rattle.
After a delay, they were given real versions of the objects and asked tested on whether they assembled the pieces into a rattle. Children at all ages assembled the rattle when they had read a book with color photographs of the objects. Children in the two older age groups transferred the solution from color line drawings, and only children in the oldest group transferred the solution from the book with pencil drawings. This study shows that the pictorial realism of the pictures in the book influenced children's transfer of the rattle assembly, and that this book feature interacts with development.
When realistic photos are used, even month-olds can use information presented in a picture book to make inductive inferences about non-obvious properties of real objects and attempt to elicit those properties through particular actions that were depicted in the book Keates et al. Simcock and DeLoache's task required transfer of a solution in which the learning and transfer contexts were highly visually matched.
However, as with transfer of scientific concepts, transfer of problem solutions often requires considering deep features rather than surface-level characteristics.
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This requires skill in analogical reasoning. There are also important differences between transfer of science concepts and problem solutions. In the case of biology and physics, children are tasked with separating realistic from unrealistic information and only transferring that which is applicable to the real world. In the case of biology, this appears to often be difficult for children, as they are not good at distinguishing the two and tend to err on the side of rejecting anything that may seem unrealistic. However, for those who can distinguish appropriately, a lack of realism may act as a useful cue that particular information should not be transferred.
In problem solving, however, the ability to distinguish between realistic and unrealistic information may be less important because solutions to fantastical problems are often applicable to real-world situations if deep features are considered. Even children who can appropriately distinguish fantastical portrayals may struggle to apply problem solutions optimally because their skepticism toward applying fantastical information may lead them to dismiss solutions presented in fantastical contexts even when the problem solution would apply to real-world problems.
Children more readily transferred solutions to real-world social and physical problems from a story with real characters than one with fantastical characters. Similarly, Richert and Smith compared 3- to 5-year-old children's ability to transfer solutions for novel problem types presented in full-length, commercial picture books when read by a researcher. Children were presented with a point-of-view problem, in which the solution was for the character to hide from an individual by standing behind him, and a pulling problem, in which the solution was to attach a suction cup attached to a rope to move an object.
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Again, children were more likely to transfer the solution to the real world when the problems had been presented in a realistic version of the picture book than a fantastical version. Similar to the pattern seen in the biological domain, fantastical contexts appear to make transferring problem solutions to real-world situations more difficult for children.
In problem solution tasks, children need to identify analogical similarities between a problem presented in a book and a problem faced in the lab. Skill in fantasy-reality discrimination may support children in realizing that problem solutions in fantastical contexts may apply to real world problems. In support of this interpretation, Richert and Schlesinger found that 3- to 6-year-old children with a better understanding of the fantasy-reality distinction were better able to learn and transfer problem solutions from video stories when fantastical elements were present and relevant to the solution being presented.
Fantastical elements that were incidental appeared to distract children and interfere with transfer. More research is needed to identify other features of books that influence children's transfer of problem solving strategies. Many popular children's characters have encountered a bully, lied, or had bad dreams. Adults may choose these books hoping they will teach children information they can use in their own daily experiences. However, adults should not assume that pre-readers readily extract the moral messages intended by authors.
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Even as late as third grade, children have difficulty identifying the moral themes of oral stories when asked to explicitly describe them Narvaez et al. These researchers report that children often choose responses that have superficial characteristics in common with the story rather than appropriate thematic responses. As with science learning and problem solving, children cannot rely on surface-level features to extract moral themes.
As such, we might expect analogical reasoning and fantasy-reality distinction to play important roles in learning moral messages. As with problem solving, although morals presented in unrealistic contexts may be applicable to real-world situations, even children with the ability to distinguish fantasy and reality may tend not to transfer moral lessons. In addition to the challenges discussed in other domains, learning thematic messages from books may be an additionally difficult task because children must learn to connect together the relations and events that occur across multiple story events.
According to van den Broek et al. Then, they progress to making connections between more distant and abstract events, followed by clustering events by theme. Once children are able to make these connections, they can use them to extract a story's moral or lesson, an ability requiring analogical reasoning. This developmental sequence unfolds gradually throughout early childhood, possibly making the transfer of moral messages to the real world one of the most difficult domains for learning from picture books.
As a result, we might expect transferring morals to be more easily disrupted by book features, but unfortunately, little research is available in this area. Larsen et al. Four- to six-year-olds were read either a commercial picture book about an anthropomorphized raccoon who learns that sharing makes her feel good or a version of the book in which the raccoon characters were replaced with humans. Both before and after reading children were given stickers and the opportunity to share some of the stickers with another child who would not have the opportunity to receive any.
Children who had read the story with the human characters shared significantly more stickers after than before the book sharing. Those who read the book about anthropomorphized raccoon shared significantly fewer stickers after than before book sharing.
Of interest is the finding that children who judged anthropomorphized animals as more human-like on a categorization task using stimuli unrelated to the main picture books in the study were those who were most likely to share after hearing the anthropomorphized animal story, suggesting that a lack of identification with the characters could have contributed to lack of transfer of the moral theme. Also, perceived similiarity with the story characters may make it more likely for the child to grasp the intent of the story and apply it to their own lives.
Stories are created with the intention to communicate something and to adults the communicative intention behind a story may be straightforward, however children may need more support to be able to identify the story's intended message. There is additional evidence that human characters may be supportive for helping children identify and extract story themes. Another study, which did not involve a transfer task, found that 4- and 5-year-olds were more likely to identify the theme of a story they were read ask permission to join a game if it featured human characters than if they were read the same story with rabbit characters Kotaman and Balci, The children who were read the human story also scored better on general story comprehension.
The available research suggests that characters that are, or are perceived as, similar to the child may enhance the extraction of story morals and their transfer to real-world situations. As with other domains, transfer of moral themes depends on children's ability to see the similarity between the situation in books and real-world situations. Realistic characters may be one way of supporting this connection. In addition, characters and contexts that differ greatly from real-world contexts may lead children to question which information in stories is realistic and should be transferred.
Adults and children regularly engage in joint reading with a variety of goals. In this review, we have focused on the use of books to teach children transferrable information about words, letters, science, problem solutions, and moral lessons. Through this review, a few important themes have emerged. First, children's learning from a given picture book appears to be the result of an interaction between the particular features of the book, the type of information to be learned, and constraints on children's development in the areas we have outlined.
As we have seen, certain features e.
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Children's age and therefore developmental stage also affects what and whether they learn. For example, pictorial realism and manipulative features may be especially disruptive for younger children in word and letter learning where transfer can occur based on aligning surface-level features such as shape and color. In this domain the development of symbolic understanding may help in instances when mismatches between pictures and reality or distacting features interfere with transfer between book and real contexts.
This same interaction between book features and development may not be as important in domains like problem solving and morality where children need to understand and transfer deeper features across situations rather than rely on surface-level features. However, when children achieve a better grasp of this distinction, fantastical stories may not present as much of a barrier to learning in domains where fantasy serves as a good cue for lack of transferability.
Second, there is still much that we do not know about which features support learning from books. Each feature has been tested only a handful of times in a handful of contexts. While some features, such as realistic portrayals of animals, may be optimal for teaching biology, the reverse may be true for encouraging empathy for animals and nature. For example, children often use anthropomorphic reasoning to explain why trees and other elements of nature should be protected Gebhard et al.
Different patterns of anthropomorhims effects on children's learning may also emerge at different ages Geerdts, ; Severson and Lemm, Table 1 displays the domains and book features that have been discussed and allows for identification of areas which have not been studied. Finally, the most supportive thing adults can do to help children learn, even more than selecting high-quality books, is to have conversations with them during reading.