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Blog post Part of special issue: To read, or not to read?

Technology to support reading engagement: Should schools include augmented reality (AR) books on their shelves?

Kawla Alhamad, PhD Student at University of Edinburgh & Lecturer at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University

Augmented reality (AR) books offer new opportunities for interaction and engagement, augmenting a traditional paper book with digital features such as animations, sounds and graphics to provide a unique reading experience. Features of AR stimulate senses by combining existing information from print books with virtual information through virtual reality (Wang et al., 2019), and are structured in a way that is designed to add value to the print books, offering an interactive space for students to explore the book’s content (Danaei et al., 2020).

In recent years there has been a shift in children’s reading practices, from more traditional paper-based books to greater use of screens for reading. While it was predicted that print books could be replaced by the existence of e-books (Ha et al., 2011), this has not materialised and print books are still more widely used; however’ an increased use of electronic devices for reading is evident (Clark & Teravainen-Goff, 2020). Augmented reality (AR) books are interesting as they combine the features of print books with technology, where students can interact with physical books via electronic devices, such as an iPad, as illustrated in the image below (that is, no headset is required, the images and sounds emerge via the device). However, in what ways can AR books encourage children’s reading engagement?

Compared to traditional print books, readers engage with AR books in a different way, holding a digital device over the print book while viewing as dynamic images emerge from the book and sounds bring the text to life. This type of reading experience is likely to have consequences for children’s engagement with the book. However, there is currently very little research on children’s interaction and use of AR books and the implications of these for reading engagement. My project aims to capture and understand children’s (aged 7–10) experiences with AR books, using observations and interviews with children to do this. In total, 38 children have been observed interacting naturally with an AR book and then interviewed after their experience. Children have shared their thoughts about how AR books could support their behavioural engagement: ‘If there is another book like this, I would read it. I would want to read it’, ‘Can we take this home and read it?’; affective engagement: ‘it feels like amazing mixing with happiness into like one’, ‘I wanna be in the book’; social engagement: ‘you got something to share’, ‘you can talk to other people about it’; and cognitive engagement: ‘because it is 3D so I can actually see what’s going on and how it actually happens’.

‘Compared to traditional print books, readers engage with AR books in a different way, holding a digital device over the print book while viewing as dynamic images emerge from the book and sounds bring the text to life.’

So, is it time for schools to start including AR books on their shelves? Resources, technical support and teachers’ attitudes to the use of AR books would all need to be considered (Panchenko et al., 2020). Research suggests that AR books might have a place in supporting increased reading engagement among children. However, much more research is needed to find out, for example, whether AR books may be particularly supportive of the reading experiences of children with below-average reading skills and whether increased reading engagement with AR books transfers to increased reading engagement in general.


Clark, C., & Teravainen-Goff, A. (2020). Children and young people’s reading in 2019: Findings from our annual literacy survey. National Literacy Trust.‏

Danaei, D., Jamali, H. R., Mansourian, Y., & Rastegarpour, H. (2020). Comparing reading comprehension between children reading augmented reality and print storybooks. Computers & Education, 153, 103900.

Ha, T., Lee, Y., & Woo, W. (2011). Digilog book for temple bell tolling experience based on interactive augmented reality. Virtual Reality, 15(4), 295–309.‏

Panchenko, L. F., Vakaliuk, T. A., & Vlasenko, K. V. (2020). Augmented reality books: Concepts, typology, tools. CEUR Workshop Proceedings.‏ 

Shinskey, J. L. (2021). Lift-the-flap features in ‘first words’ picture books impede word learning in 2-year-olds. Journal of Educational Psychology, 113(4), 641. 

Wang, L., Lee, H., & Ju, D. Y. (2019). Impact of digital content on young children’s reading interest and concentration for books. Behaviour & Information Technology, 38(1), 1–8.


Funder: Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University

Acknowledgement: With thanks to Iker Burguera, CEo of Educa Reality an author of ARBI book series, for providing Arbi AR books to support with this research.

Supervisors: Dr Sarah McGeown and Professor Andrew Manches

Further information: