An Exploratory Study of Involving Parents in E-book Joint Reading with Voice Agents

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Virginia Tech


Parent-child interactions during joint reading play an important role in young children's cognitive and language development. However, contemporary digital book formats---such as e-books or audiobooks---often overlook the role of the parent in reading the text, by either dubbing voice narration over it or reading it aloud automatically. With the advancement and prevalence of voice-based conversational artificial intelligence (AI) agents, AI reading an e-book emerges as a novel reading experience, yet reducing the role of parents in the reading process similarly. When the reading experience becomes less of a joint activity between children and parents, the potential benefits children can gain from reading may diminish. In this study involving 11 parent-child pairs, we aimed to explore how voice agents (VAs) could be used to create an interactive digital space to 1) promote parental engagement in joint e-book reading with children and 2) enhance parents' and children's joint reading experiences. We developed and evaluated TaleMate, an interactive joint reading app that allows parents and children ages 3-6 years to assign different AI voices to the characters from a book while enabling parents to embody one of the characters to read the book with the voice agents. We found that the system supported children's engagement and story comprehension. Parents reported that they found value in the interactivity of the system and enjoyed a participatory, joint reading experience, where both they and their children could choose which characters to embody. These findings offer insights into design considerations for researchers interested in developing applications that facilitate collaborative reading experiences involving parents, children, and voice agents.



voice agents, joint reading, parents, e-book, children