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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Coming back to our senses to transform children’s digital reading

Alternative title: Duftinntrykk og barns digitale lesing

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

This cutting-edge project researches the power of smells and scents to transform children’s reading. Scents and smells provide unique clues about the environment and they activate interest, engagement and memories. Yet, the entire educational system relies on audio-visual content and neglects the role of olfaction in children’s learning. The focus on olfaction carries specific urgency given the current increased use of antiseptics and sanitation products and an altered sense of smell of those who had Covid-19. This is the first project to examine the educational value of olfaction in children’s learning, with a specific focus on children’s reading. The main study will be conducted in Norway, which has one of the world’s highest Internet coverage, technology availability and digital literacy in the educational sector. Data collection follows a participatory research methodology. This means that the researchers involve children as co-researchers, who together with their parents and teachers, examine the role of scents and smells in children’s digital books. The focus is on 3-5-year-old Norwegian children and their schools and families who will find out whether scented books increase children’s reading engagement, comprehension and learning of story-related vocabulary. In addition, children’s authors and illustrators, app designers, publishers and librarians will contribute to the development of prototypes and ideas. The project combines psychology, education, literary theory and computer science and diverse cutting-edge methods to provide a new perspective on children’s reading in the digital age.

Digital olfactory books (DOB) are an innovative concept that challenges the interactions between science, technology, and education. DOBs are e-books accessed on smartphones/tablets that have multimedia (eg.sounds) and simple interactive features (eg.character moves) and the possibility to emit scents through physical extensions (eg.Bluetooth connected scratch cards). E-books play a paramount role in children’s learning, but as yet, their design disregards the importance of multisensory stimulation. Norway’s use of digital technologies is one of the highest worldwide and children read increasingly digitally. However, Norwegian e-books are of poor quality and there is low awareness about technological/human intersections for reading. This interdisciplinary project focuses on e-books read by 3-5-year-old Norwegians in a child-driven participatory research intervention that actively involves parents, teachers and designers in examining the intersection of technology and the natural experience of sensory engagement with stories. Effectiveness of multi-sensory reading, with a specific focus on olfaction as a key sensory stimulation, is examined in relation to increase in children’s reading engagement, comprehension and learning of story-related vocabulary. The project combines psychology, education, literary theory and computer science and diverse cutting-edge methods to re-define what transformative reading experiences are in the digital age. A meta-analysis, large-scale survey, observations and two small-scale RCTs, will make a major contribution to the knowledge concerning the intersections between children’s natural sensory engagement and digital reading. The study will provide a theoretically grounded perspective on children’s sensory reading with digital texts, which will be of great value to interdisciplinary scholars. The stakeholders who will benefit from the project are kindergarten children, parents, educators, authors, app designers, publishers, librarians.


FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren