Should children read e-books or traditional books? The prons and cons of each.
Children are growing up in a new era, and when it comes to reading, parents are faced with two choices: e-books and traditional books.
While a paper book has been the norm for centuries, e-books for children can now be read on a computer or tablet. An e-book can have exciting features including narration, animated pictures, music, sound effects, and links that connect to games or elaborate on the story.
Parents often find themselves caught between two worlds. Should they be concerned about how much screen time they allow their children? Can children learn as much from e-books as they can from traditional books? Several studies have been conducted over the past decade and provide some insight into the advantages and disadvantages to e-books.
E-books have several advantages:
Studies have shown that children can learn early reading skills from e-books that offer certain helpful features, including a dictionary, words that become highlighted when the narrator reads them, and games and pictures that explain the story. Since e-books can be exciting, children also tend to spend more time reading e-books with their parents compared to traditional books. One study even found that children with developmental delays improved their vocabulary and language development after sharing an e-book. These books are also convenient for on-the-go reading and can be read independently.
E-books also have some disadvantages compared to paper books:
Studies show that parents don’t talk as much about the story when using an e-book, but end up discussing the buttons and games instead. How do you counteract that? The best advice from experts is to read an e-book together so children can benefit from having an adult explain the story and link it to personal experiences, similar to how they would when reading a paper book. Interestingly, one study showed that children who read paper books better understood the details of the story. Perhaps this is because the extra buttons and features can distract children from the story.
If you want to read an e-book with your child, look for ones that have features shown to help children learn. For instance, e-books with pictures and interactive features can help children understand the story. Interactive features, however, can be a distraction if you can access them before the narrator finishes reading the page. Have your child listen to the story in “read-only” mode to help them better understand the story before they play. A highlighter is also a useful tool that can showcase words as the narrator reads them. Having a dictionary mode that helps explain difficult words can also be helpful. Forward and backward buttons, as well as repeated reading options, allow children to repeat pages, sentences or words to help build their understanding. Again, any book format will be improved if you read together, discuss what you’re reading, explain challenging words and connect the story to your child’s experiences.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]e-books should not replace paper books.[/pullquote]
In short, researchers agree that e-books should not replace paper books. Rather, good quality e-books should be used in addition to traditional paper books. No matter what type of book your child reads, the most important thing is to read it together. This will promote your child’s language and literacy skills and help develop a lifelong love of reading.