Prior research with preschool children has established that book reading, especially when children are encouraged to actively process the story materials through dialogic reading, is an effective method for expanding young children’s vocabulary. A growing body of research also suggests that social robots have potential as learning companions and tutors for young children’s early language education. Social robots are new technologies that combine the adaptability, customizability, and scalability of technology with the embodied, situated world in which we operate.
In this project, we asked whether a social robot can effectively engage preschoolers in dialogic reading. Given that past work has shown that children can and do learn new words from social robots, we investigate what factors modulate their learning. In particular, we looked at whether the verbal expressiveness of the robot impacted children’s learning and engagement during a dialogic reading activity. This project was funded by an NSF Cyberlearning grant.