To Book or to Nook: Should Your Child’s Reading Go Digital?

What are the advantages of e-books over traditional print? Should your child stick to turning pages or switch to swiping at a screen?

According to Pew Research Center, while parents with minors are considered to be more tech savvy than other adults — they are more likely to own computers, tablets, and the like — 81 percent of these parents say that reading print books to their children is “very important.”

Yet, in this same poll, researchers found that the amount of adults using tablets (31 percent) and e-readers (26 percent) has not only been rising, but a third of this population says that they are reading more than usual because of the wide availability of e-content.

So, if you want to instill a love of reading in your child, which medium is best?

A Case For The Book

According to The New York Times, while the amount of adults buying e-books has increased at a dizzying rate, sales for children’s e-books represent less than 5 percent of total children’s books sales. Meanwhile, e-book purchase accounts for 25 percent of total book sales for adults.

Here are some advantages that come with sticking to paper:

A Low-Tech Option

The book is simple. Immediate. Tactile. A marvel of design. It never runs out of battery and it’s durable. Books are cheaper, and easier to replace. You can worry less about getting splashed at the poolside with one of these in your hand.

Better Suited for Reading Aloud

As described in this New York Times post, researchers at Temple University found that parents who read from a print book tend to ask more inference and comprehension questions, such as “What do you think will happen next?” Parents who read from an e-book tended to focus more on the device — “Hold it this way,” or “Push here.”

A Break From Eye Strain

Books don’t shine in your eyes, which makes them a good way to wind down before going to bed. Light-emitting devices, such as the iPad, send signals to your brain that you should stay awake because they inhibit the secretion of melatonin, the neurotransmitter related to sleep.

However, with e-readers that use e-ink, a technology that doesn’t emit back-light and looks similar to ink on paper, eye strain isn’t an issue. Some common devices that use e-ink are Nooks and Kindles.

Less Distraction

Children’s e-books are full of engaging additions, such as music and games. However, as Lisa Guernsey explains in this Scholastic article, these additions can be overwhelming for kids and take away focus from the actual story.

Sharing Is Caring

Sharing is easier with books. It’s less of a hassle to lend and borrow books than to share digital content (although sharing capabilities are improving on e-readers). 69 percent of adults in the Pew poll said that when it came to sharing books, print books were their preferred method.

A Case For The E-Reader

E-books are quickly becoming a staple in adults’ literary lives. When asked to choose between a print book and e-book for different situations, the majority of those polled by Pew researchers said that when it comes to having a wide selection, traveling, or getting a book quickly, they prefer a digital format.

Are these benefits applicable to children as well? Here’s where e-readers just might be beating out traditional books:

Makes Travel Convenient

Going digital is convenient for parents on the move. When you’re going on a family vacation, it’s much easier to pack a Kindle instead of a satchel full of books.

Interactivity

Books become apps, and this is a double-edged sword. While, as noted before, the multi-faceted nature of an e-book can be distracting, it can also make children more engaged in their reading experience.

Monitor Focus and Content

Reading is reading, no matter if it’s on a e-reader or a book. While parents are concerned that their child may be playing Angry Birds rather than reading for her assigned book, there are tablets designed for children that can help them stay focused, and with parental controls on most commercial tablets and e-readers, parent can monitor what content their children consume.

A Complement to The Digital Classroom

For middle school and high school kids, e-readers, tablets, and access to digital resources are key to success in school. Teachers assign homework requiring the use of digital technology, and students are expected to share their work on the cloud, or to annotate what they’ve read from “Fault In Our Stars.”

Best of Both Worlds

We’re becoming dual-format readers. E-books are better for travelling, when we’re on the go, but books are better for intimacy, when we want to connect with each other by sharing what we’ve read through storytelling.

No matter what surface you are reading on, just remember to keep it interactive. As Gabriela Strauss, an adjunct assistant professor at Vanderbilt explained in this New York Times article, engaging with your child in whatever learning process she is doing — be it book or e-book — is what matters most.

Sources:

Dell’Antonia, KJ (2011, December 28). Why books are better than e-Books for children. Retrieved online from The New York Times.

Desilver, D. (2014, January 21). Overall book readership stable, but e-books becoming more popular. Retrieved online from The Pew Research Center.

E-books vs. print: what parents need to know. (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2014, from Scholastic.

Fitzgerald, T. (2012, March 28). Bringing up an E-Reader. Retrieved online from The New York Times.

Fowler, G. (2010, April 1). Screens and eyestrain. Retrieved December 15, 2014, from The Wall Street Journal.

Milian, M. (2010, April 24). Reading on iPad before bed can affect sleep habits. Retrieved online from The Los Angeles Times.

Richtel, M. And Bosman, J. (2011, November 20). For their children, many e-book fans insist on paper. Retrieved online from The New York Times.

Zickuhr, K. (2013, May 28). In a digital age, parents value printed books for their kids. Retrieved online from The Pew Research Center.

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