Support children’s learning by talking with them over a book

It is intuitive that children learn from their parents and grandparents, but it’s easy to underestimate how much.  We at Kindoma strongly believe in the power of combining families and books to promote childrens’ learning. Talking to your child helps prepare them for school:

Almost two decades ago, in 1995, Hart & Risley published the results of a landmark study [1] that linked success in school at age nine to the amount of talk they hear from birth to age three.  The actual difference in the amount of words children hear is astonishing; successful children heard on average 8 million more words per year than their struggling peers, leading to what was termed the “30 million word gap” by the time they turn four.

Distance makes talking even harder:

To make matters worse, many families today live apart. In the US alone, 1 in 3 children live apart from one biological parent.  Even families that live together can be separated because of their parent's work, whether they are on a military deployment or just frequent business trips.  Grandparents also want to be involved in their grandchildren's lives, but around half of them live more than 200 miles away.

Our own research shows that long-distance families are struggling to find ways to communicate with the children that they love [2,3].  It’s difficult to maintain a conversation over the phone or videochat with children under the age of 7.   There are several different types of challenges that often lead to communication breakdowns over the phone.

  • Cognitive challenges: Children’s difficulty with perspective taking leads to a class of problems such as gesturing to things unseen by the other side.
  • Social challenges: Young children haven’t mastered the art of conversation.  They aren’t yet good storytellers, and they haven’t mastered turn-taking or asking questions.  Even children who are normally talkative face-to-face are often reported to digress to just “yes” and “no” responses over the phone.
  • Attentional / Motivational challenges: Children have difficulty staying engaged and sitting still for a long time.  They don’t feel connected to the remote party, and as a result they view talking with their family on the phone as a chore.

Videochat is an improvement over the phone because you can show rather than tell, and use gesture instead of words.  However, videochat is still oriented towards conversation. Most children run away from the videochat after a few minutes. When you are with a child you typically don’t try to engage them with conversation, instead you find a way to play with them!

Why Kindoma Storytime works:

We at Kindoma have reimagined videochat to be more engaging, playful, and fun using books.  Books give families something to do together, and something to talk about, leading to much longer and richer interactions with their children.  Book reading is familiar to both the young and old, and it resembles what families already do when they are physically together.

So show your love by reading a book with your child using Kindoma Storytime!  Reading with them today will help them be better prepared for school later.


[1] Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Brookes Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore, MD.

[2] Ames, M., Go, J., Kaye, J. “J.”, & Spasojevic, M. (2010). Making Love in the Network Closet: The Benefits and Work of Home Videochat. CSCW  ’10: Proceedings of the 2010 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. pp 145–154. doi:10.1145/1718918.1718946

[3] Ballagas, R., Kaye, J., Ames, M., Go, J., & Raffle, H. (2009). Family Communication: Phone Conversations with Children. Proc. Interaction Design for Children. pp 3-6. ACM. doi: 10.1145/1551788.1551874