Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: Why Using the “Right” Readability Formula in Children’s Web Search Matters

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Conference Proceeding

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Readability is a core component of information retrieval (IR) tools as the complexity of a resource directly affects its relevance: a resource is only of use if the user can comprehend it. Even so, the link between readability and IR is often overlooked. As a step towards advancing knowledge on the influence of readability on IR, we focus on Web search for children. We explore how traditional formulas–which are simple, efficient, and portable–fare when applied to estimating the readability of Web resources for children written in English. We then present a formula well-suited for readability estimation of child-friendly Web resources. Lastly, we empirically show that readability can sway children’s information access. Outcomes from this work reveal that: (i) for Web resources targeting children, a simple formula suffices as long as it considers contemporary terminology and audience requirements, and (ii) instead of turning to Flesch-Kincaid–a popular formula–the use of the “right” formula can shape Web search tools to best serve children. The work we present herein builds on three pillars: Audience, Application, and Expertise. It serves as a blueprint to place readability estimation methods that best apply to and inform IR applications serving varied audiences.


Advances in Informational Retrieval is volume 13185 of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series.