In an age when children have access to a multitude of exciting high-tech devices, it’s easy to believe that “old-school” games and toys are no longer desirable. After all, why bother a child with a bland picture book when he can use an interactive reading game on his mother’s smartphone? Well, a few recent studies have suggested that you should think twice before reaching for the e-reader. And this goes for kids’ books, too.
First of all, for those new to the concept, e-books are versions of traditionally-published books that are available in electronic form on reading devices like the iPad or Kindle, rather than on paper like traditional published versions. There are many reasons why e-books are in such high demand today: they are inexpensive (sometimes free); multiple books can be stored on one single hand-held device; e-readers have built-in highlighting and bookmarking features; e-books often contain enhanced features such as images, discussion questions, or related activities. And, as far as most kids are concerned, anything new is automatically desirable.
So, why are the experts concerned? First of all, e-readers are designed for individual use; paper books are more easily shared. Because we know, from multitudes of studies, that a child’s foundation of language is often built upon hearing their parents read aloud, it’s important that a book can be shared between parent and child. Second, e-books tend to have more “bells and whistles”; most traditional books contain a simple, linear narrative. Although the added features of an e-book may make the story more fun for young eyes, a child’s retention and comprehension is higher with a simple storyline.
When your child’s eighth birthday rolls around and you’re stuck deciding between a Thomas & Friends e-book or a good old paper copy of Thomas favorites, consider the purpose of the book itself. E-books are great for the interactive exploration of your child’s favorite stories or characters. But, if you are looking for a way to increase your child’s literacy and comprehension skills, a traditional paper book is the way to go.