Professor Kucirkova has been studying children's reading on screen since 2010. The meta-evidence is clear: e-books that have the right enhancements (design features) can significantly advance children’s learning, especially for disadvantaged children. Yet, the overall quality of e-books on the market is low: the most popular e-books are not offered in local languages, they overwhelm children with distracting mini-games and loud voiceovers). And yet, e-books are popular with children who often need adult support most, such as children with special educational needs, reluctant readers, children with a few books at home or living in isolation.
Natalia's work falls into four main areas:
increase the quality of e-book development through strategic partnerships with industry and governments
use of science-based criteria for e-book design, evaluation and implementation
professional development for teachers/educators on effective use of e-books in classrooms
guidance for parents/caregivers as well as librarians and community workers
Collective of Digital Books
To improve the quality of children's digital books, researchers and designers need to work together with teachers and children. The Collective brings together industry, academia and practice with the aim of developing science-based, child-centred children's digital books. Professor Kucirkova is the Founder and Chair of the Collective.
Children's Digital Book Award
The International Children's Digital Book Award is the only children's award focused on reading on screen and judged entirely by teachers. Teachers are positioned as experts in children's e-books and each year evaluate the best children's e-books on the market, using research-based criteria. Professor Kucirkova founded the Award in 2015. The Award is now administered by the national charities UKLA and RfP at the Open University.
Professor Kucirkova produced a suite of free classroom guides for teachers on the use of e-books or QR codes in classrooms. Her award-winning book on how and why to read and create children's digital books is freely available from IOE Press.
The website Literacy Apps (government-funded project with National Literacy Trust) provides recommendations for apps that were evaluated using criteria from Natalia's research.
Natalia’s PhD project led to the development of the Our Story app for children’s story-making, launched in 2011. She also developed one of the first interactive children’s e-books called What is That? and an ecosystem of children’s e-reading Digistoryland (UCL Knowledge & Innovation Fund).