The Robot Bookworm: Stimulating Children’s Reading Motivation and Comprehension

Dutch children are reading less and less, resulting in a decline of their reading skills. Children with insufficient reading skills have trouble fully participating in school and society. Factors such as reading motivation and availability of support are important determinants of how well children read. Social robots are a promising educational tool, e.g., support offered by a robot math tutor increases children’s math performance. We aim to investigate how social robots can be used to enhance primary education children’s reading motivation and comprehension. In doing so, we strive to develop a personalized reading robot tutor, who 1) helps children to select a fitting book, which they will then start reading individually, and 2) regularly meets with the child to discuss the ongoing reading process and book-related experiences. In its tutoring role, the robot interacts with the child by asking personalized questions and giving feedback, combining the book’s contents and the child’s interests and reading level. Being tailored to the individual child’s needs, we hypothesize that the robot will boost children’s reading motivation, and by that, ultimately, their reading comprehension.

In this project, we propose a two-phase approach:

1. We chart the potential of using a reading robot tutor in school by a) organizing focus groups with different types of stakeholders – children, teachers, and librarians – to identify their wishes/needs/opinions/ideas concerning implementing robots in school to support children’s reading; b) examining the (technical) possibilities of using robots to support children’s reading, focussing on exploring the ways in which child-robot interaction can best be personalized.

2. We run an intervention study to investigate the effects of the robot tutor on children’s reading motivation and comprehension by a) using phase 1 as input for the intervention design; b) expanding an existing AI framework to implement the intervention.