Young children learn through social interaction, and one important form of social interaction for many children is the activity of reading a book together with a caregiver. Previous work by CoAI JRC members Katharina Rohlfing and Angela Grimminger suggests that joint book reading can be understood as a pragmatic frame in which the child and her partner use a book as part of a highly structured interaction involving gestures and other forms of non-verbal communication to help the child learn new words and concepts. The frame of joint book reading also provides a valuable way to study how children can learn together with robots: many children are already familiar with structures of the frame, and its activities have become routine and game-like, facilitating the child’s interaction with the robot.
A recent study by Grimminger and Rohlfing puts the child in the role of “teacher” in a joint book reading scenario with a robot. In the study, a four year-old child interacts with a robot, who invites the child to read a book about colors together in order to help the robot learn new color words.
Using the step-by-step structure of the joint book reading frame, the researchers were able to closely observe how the child interacted with the robot, how miscommunications and technical difficulties were handled, and how the child negotiated changing roles in the interaction as it developed. This gave the researchers new insights into how to shape the communicative capacities and interactional behavior of robots to successfully participate in joint book reading.
The study also motivated a review and analysis of dialogical roles in child-robot education with a team of international colleagues.