Dr Jeanne Shinskey, from Royal Holloway College at the University of London, has been reading picture books.
Now, as a doctor, you'd have thought she'd have moved on from that sort of thing, but apparently she's been doing some research into what in the Book Trade are called novelties - in this case, books with flaps.
You know the sort of thing.
Where is the dog?
Is he under the blanket?
[Lift the paper flap]
No, that's a tortoise eating a doughnut.
Anyway, Dr Shinskey has proved something that all parents probably knew, though probably without realising it.
If a book has flaps then the fun of finding out what's hidden underneath them distracts children from taking much notice of the words.
Dr Shinskey's experiment consisted of showing a flap-book about fruit to two groups of two-year-olds. In half of the books the flaps had been sealed, and it turned out that 68% of the group who read the books with sealed flaps could remember the name of an unfamiliar fruit that appeared in the text (it was a star fruit) when they'd finished the book, but only 30% of the children whose books had opening flaps remembered the star fruit's name.
Dr Shinskey says that flaps seem to enhance children's tendency 'to treat books as just another type of physical toy, rather than a tool for learning'.
I'm not sure how many people of any age see a book as a tool for learning, but I'll tell you something: the market for adult books with flaps is vanishingly small.
Well, I wouldn't want a with-flaps version of Middlemarch or the Oxford English Dictionary.
Word To Use Today: flap. The word was first known in English in the 1300s and is probably a rather good imitation of the sound something makes when it's flapping.