Tuesday, January 10, 2012

E-readers, e-books, book apps, and The Big Bad Wolf

As previously mentioned, I use Twitter as a resource for professional development, staying current with news and parenting related issues.  Sometimes I read the statements made and skip the article, and the impression is made, regardless of whether I have the whole story.  This tweet caught my attention over Christmas break. 

“@timeoutdad: Why Books Are Better than e-Books for Children: http://t.co/Vu31lxog #edchat #kinderchat #ptchat #dadstalking”


I love books. Since the fourth grade some of my best friends have been characters from novels, children's books, and historical literature.  My Masters is in Reading and Literacy and my Board Certification is in Early Childhood. I love technology. Since middle school when I dialed up and connected to the world I have embraced all the convienences and wonder of technological toys.  

So the question of which is better, ebooks or good old print books has been on my mind a lot.  As a reader.  As a mother. As a teacher.  I have hundreds (probably at least a thousand) of childrens books.  I have stacks and boxes of books for me.  And I have debated the idea within since I loaded my first book onto my iPad, and before that, the cd-roms onto my first classroom computer containing Dr Seuss and Little Critter books.  Is an e-book better, the same, or worse for children (and, by extension adults)?

My first thought on reading this (because I am a bit naive and trusting of those doing research, with PhD's, or published in the Times) was well, shoot, I've been messing up my daughter (who LOVES ebooks) and my students too.

Then when I reread the article I became a little fired up and a rant rose up within me!

So as not to let my professional opinion be misunderstood, let me be clear.  I want what is best for children.  If research shows ereaders are BAD or 'impede' learning when compared to regular print I will delete every book on my iPads.  After reading these blogs/articles though, I think the title of the article and the research it is based on are misleading.

One article rated parent child interactions "When watching Scholastic books on video".... Did you read that? They were WATCHING a video and the author of the article compared ereaders to a video.  I have the scholastic videos. I like them.  If I chose to show one in my classroom during instructional time I do pause it and discuss the video with the kids.  At home, though, it's a movie and I WATCH it with my kids.  Cardinal rule in my house- do NOT talk during a movie.

E-readers are NOT movies.  Or, at least they SHOULDN'T be. Just like some apps are duds, some ebooks should not count as books.  Scholastic books made into movies are NOT a book.  They are a video.  Watching Twilight is not the same as reading the novel, and certainly your vocabulary and understanding of character motivation won't be the same either.  

The other article that referenced research was done several YEARS ago, before the iPad was made, and other portable touch devices went mainstream.  It said parents were more concerned with how their child handled the device and with navigating the story.  Tablets are pretty indestructible now and frankly most 4 year olds (and my daughter when she was 2) can navigate the iPad more fluently than most adults.  

I was shocked when the author of the article said she didn't read on ereaders because she wants her child to see her 'reading'.  My 3 year old sees no disctinction between her digital books or traditional books.  She sees me reading with my Kindle app and with traditional books and says 'Can I read with you mommy?'.  Then she gets a book or ebook and reads along with me or asks me about the book I am reading.  Whether you read a newspaper, a magazine, a novel, an ebook or an encyclapedia- modeling reading is modeling reading.  

So, while I think that these articles certainly remind us that parents need guidence on reading with their children (with BOTH traditional books and ebooks) I wholeheartedly disaggree with their 'findings.'  Ebooks are just like print books- the quality depends on the author and the learning your child takes away from it depends on their interactions with the book and the person reading with them.

Ranting aside, my next blog post will be about GOOD ebooks... the ones that are even BETTER than their print copy, just as good, or better than not reading at all.  I will also share how I use them in my classroom.

For now though, my 3 year old thinks you should read The Monster at the End of This Book.   I've read the app version and the golden book version- both are excellent.  She prefers the app.  I love that she reads it with me, I read it to her, and she can listen to the story when I am making dinner.  So, go.  Read a book.  Until the research is relevant, current and a little less biased I say read in any way that you enjoy, or that encourages a love of literature.  





  1. I don't think it's a good idea to buy e-readers for children! In my opinion, it's much better for them to read printed books. We grew up with this kind of books and we are here. Nevertheless, we must admit that e-readers are great gadgets. We can have hundreds of books in just one place, but of course it's not the same thing like when we read those "heavy" books.

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion! Last month I bought my first print book for awhile at the local library booksale and found myself realizing how much I really did prefer my e-books. I love having the various lighting options (I use the lowlight option for reading in bed and don't disturb my husband) and the ability to touch a word to see the definition- a feature I LOVE! Plus I really like having my books with me where ever I go.

  2. You made some excellent arguments for e-books, BUT I still believe it's better to start young children with REAL books. My five-year-old does use a tablet for reading sometimes, but since he grew up with lots of books (like you and your child), he loves REAL books (as I'm sure your little one does, too). For our bedtime routine, I stick to traditional books, because I've found digital screen time makes it harder for him to settle down.

    You said that your 3 year old sees no disctinction between her digital books or traditional books, yet later on you said for one particular book, she preferred the app to a traditional book. (What will happen when she goes to school and might not have that option?)

    Reading on a screen versus reading from paper may be similar, but they are not the same. Our kids' brains are probably being re-wired, as more young children are being exposed to digital screens. More and more e-books have "interactive" features that might detract from the text and content and distract kids (and adults, too). If our little ones use digital or e-books exclusively, they may expect (or demand) these same "perks" or "extras" from traditional books.

    I agree with you that we have to be careful with studies and reports. For now, I'm SO glad we still have the option of both digital AND print. One day, we might not have that option. :(

    Thanks for great insights and your write-up!

  3. iPad question:

    Do you have any of the kids print things from their iPads? I work in a district and we have 5 iPads in the classroom. I teach kindergarten and one of my students broke both of his arms. I am looking into ways to use the iPad for him, since writing will be near impossible at the beginning. I would like for him to be able to print some of his work...do you have any suggestions? (We are using the iPad 1).



    1. Sorry Lizzy, I overlooked your post till today. I email off the iPad to my mac when needing to print. I plan to get an air print printer but haven't gotten around to it. I hope your little man is doing better!

      I have taught my kids how to make scree shots (press home button and power button simultaneously) and then email those pics to my account.

  4. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about ipads and other technology....I gave you an award .....please stop by my blog to pick it up...:)


  5. "The Monster at the End of the Book" is one my one year old's favorites also! She doesn't get to watch TV, but I do let her use the ipad sparingly during the day. She loves traditional books but I am happy to say that already knows how to navigate the ipad! That's even where she learned the word 'please' (I wish I could say it was my husband or I..... but the way Grover says "Please, please pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease") got the point across!) Interactive books allows your child to experience reading in many ways that are not possible with a traditional book. For instance, my K kids are able to try to sound out the words if they are able, or they can click on the word to hear it. They hear correct fluency even when they are not reading with the teacher. I love this part! I particularly like the Bob Books for early readers. Traditional books will always be around (at least I think.....) but, we're doing a disservice to our kids if we do not expose them to all the types of print that are available.


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