Can Reading Personalized Storybooks to Children Increase Their Prosocial Behavior?

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This study examined whether the nominal personalization of a storybook about sharing impacted preschool-aged children’s perceived similarity with the main character or their likelihood of comprehending the moral lesson and applying it to their own behavior. Children were read either a personalized story about sharing, a non-personalized story about sharing, or a control story not about sharing. Perceived similarity with the main character was measured by participants’ self-references produced during a story retelling task, comprehension was measured through retelling and open-ended questions, and participants’ prosocial behavior was measured with a sticker sharing task both prior to and following the story reading. The amount of spontaneous speech produced by the participant during the storybook reading was also measured to gauge whether children’s engagement with and understanding of the story was affected by storybook type. Results showed that nominally personalized books did not encourage greater comprehension or more sharing behavior than the other two types of books, though both stories with a sharing moral did elicit more detailed retellings than the control story. These results suggest that books with nominal personalization do not necessarily help children understand the moral of a story and apply it to their own lives. Limitations to these findings and avenues for future research on the degree and type of personalization that may be effective for promoting prosocial behaviors in preschoolers are discussed.