Abstract We compared the effects of children's reading of an educational electronic storybook on their emergent literacy with those of being read the same story in its printed version by an adult. We investigated 128 5- to 6-year-old kindergarteners; 64 children from each of two socio-economic status (SES) groups: low (LSES) and middle (MSES). In each group, children were randomly assigned to one of three subgroups. The two intervention groups included three book reading sessions each; children in one group individually read the electronic book; in the second group, the children were read the same printed book by an adult; children in the third group, which served as a control, received the regular kindergarten programme. Pre- and post-intervention emergent literacy measures included vocabulary, word recognition and phonological awareness. Compared with the control group, the children's vocabulary scores in both intervention groups improved following reading activity. Children from both interventions groups and both SES groups showed a similarly good level of story comprehension. In both SES groups, compared with the control group, children's phonological awareness and word recognition did not improve following both reading interventions. Implications for future research and for education are discussed.