Why Books Are Better Than eBooks For Children

From flickr/ black_Coffee-blue-jeans

Unbiased eReader, yep.

Do we read to our children? Will my picture book “Annie’s Special Day” be read out loud to kids? This is something I wonder about. Fortunately it is also coming out on Kindles and Nooks and we made an audible version. However when I came across this article I had to share it. I hope you find it as inspiring. The comments are great, too.


December 28, 2011, 11:43 AM

Why Books Are Better than e-Books for Children


Do you read to your children from your iPad or other device, or encourage them to use an e-reader to read to you? Many of us do, at least on occasion — even I, who wrote here some weeks ago that I rarely read on my own iPad anymore because I want my children to see me reading books, recommended an app for creating fun picture books for travel last week. If you have a tablet or e-reader, why not add it to your child’s reading repertory as well?

The answer, according to Lisa Guernsey of the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative, is that when we read with a child on an e-reader, we may actually impede our child’s ability to learn. Ms. Guernsey interpreted recent research on childhood literacy for Time magazine, and found that parents interact differently with children over an e-reader than over a physical book. That difference may make children slower to read and comprehend a story.

Children sitting with a parent while an e-reader reads to them understand significantly less of what’s read than those hearing a parent read. Researchers atTemple University, where the study was done, noted that parents reading books aloud regularly asked children questions about the book: “What do you think will happen next?” Parents sitting with the child while a device read to them (like a LeapPad or some iPad apps) didn’t ask these questions, or relate images or incidents in the book to the child’s real life. Instead, their conversation was focused on how to use the device: “Careful! Push here. Hold it this way.”

Ms. Guernsey, observing videos of parents reading to their children from iPads, found a tendency to do the same, even when the device wasn’t doing the reading. Readers with an e-reader were focused on the device, not the story. Children whose parents talk to them about what they’re reading gain reading skills faster, but children reading with parents from digital rather than physical books aren’t getting as much of that kind of interaction.

Does that mean we should never read with or to our children from our various gadgets? Not necessarily. In our house, we find the devices themselves too distracting for regular reading, but I imagine that a child who’s more accustomed to an e-reader wouldn’t be convinced, as mine are, that the book represents a preliminary activity to a rare game of Angry Birds. If I did read from my iPad, I’d look hard at how I talked with my child as we swiped the pages and ask myself whether the tool was changing the conversation. I don’t, so instead, I’m asking myself the usual guilty-parent question, and worrying about whether we read together enough in any medium.

Do you read with a child from any kind of e-reader, or have a child who regularly uses an electronic tool to read? Do you see any ways your child’s reading experience is different when she reads from a physical book as opposed to an e-reader, or when you use books or e-readers together? What’s your call on the e-reader versus the paper book for children?

Related articles

Tomorrow I will have a wonderful picture book to share for Perfect Picture Book Friday. See you then.

About ClaraBowmanJahn

Journal writer. Author of "Annie's Special Day" And coauthor of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story." Proud mother and grandmother of wonderful kids. Wife of brilliant husband. Servant of two cats. Member of Pennwriters and SCBWI.
This entry was posted in blogging, Clara Bowman-Jahn, Clarike Bowman-Jahn, guest post, social networking and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Why Books Are Better Than eBooks For Children

  1. We are predominately paper books here at our house. I have a few ebooks for children. Due to my son’s age, his little fingers like to advance the book, pause it, etc. So whether I’m with him and the ereader or he is alone, little is “read.” With a real book, it’s a more natural experience, because there are no “voices” being stopped, etc. Plus, I just read faster when he tries to turn pages before I finish reading.


    • clarbojahn says:

      That’s interesting, Stacy. He is learning how to turn pages and is getting an experience of you trying to keep up with him. He is still too young to know what the beginning, middle and end is but he soon will. He will also learn and experience accomplishment in coming to the end of the book.

      Did you read any of the comments on that article? Many people commented who had kids under three about their experiences with ereaders and tree books. I found it fascinating.

      I don’t have an e reader yet and my husband read tree books to my grandson who loves to be read to. I don’t think he has an e reader at home either.


  2. I read your recent post with a great deal of interest. The ebook v print edition discussion wil probably continue for a long time. In the end, I predict we will end up with both being offered as options. Just as computers haven’t eliminated paper as predicted, ebooks will enhance the reading experience. By offering flexibility in reading options for busy parents the ebook reader is an asset.

    I agree that the experience of sitting beside a parent, watching and hearing them read a book is a better experience than listening to an electronic reader and encourage parents to do that as often as possible. I also beleive there are benefits in having the option of an ereader. Busy parents can carry all their children’s favorites with them to the park or on a plane. Meaning they don’t have to miss an opportunity to share your book with their child.

    I shall be interested in reading comments from other readers and writers on this issue.


    • clarbojahn says:

      I agree that this discussion will be ongoing. I also think that as long as both are offered and neither are offered in isolation, the child will be enriched. It is when ereaders are the only way children hear books that bring on the nay sayers. I think it’s a good thing to offer both in a flexible experience of reading.

      If you are interested go to the comments of the article. There were more comments than I what I had time to read. It was highly controversial.


  3. Interesting article for sure. I confess, I haven’t made the leap to e-readers with kids. I still much prefer traditional picture books. I’ve started reading on a Kindle myself – trying to get used to it – in the interest of not having to build a new wing on the house to store my reading material, but when it comes to reading with kids I still like the old way 🙂 Can’t wait to see what your PPB is tomorrow!


    • clarbojahn says:

      I still love all the old tree picture books myself. I haven’t even an e reader yet. However I do have a kindle on my pc that I’ve read a book on. However after sitting with my laptop all day writing and on the internet I don’t want to read with it on my lap at night.

      I’m reading Kings book “11/22/63”. It’s enormously thick and difficult to hold but with a pillow works just right. Love those books! I imagine it’s a matter of time before I get an ereader. I do want to see “Annie’s Special Day” on a Nook.


  4. In our house books are books and the iPad and iPod are toys for games (for my daughter anyway). I have an eReader and I don’t let her near it.


    • clarbojahn says:

      Isn’t it true that you can get books on the iPad and iPod? Does she have books on them? How do you handle that?

      I guess it matters how old she is, too. And if she still likes being read to.

      Seems clear cut to limit the ereader to the adults though. I’d like some rules if I had a child and an ereader. Thanks for weighing in with this comment GS. 🙂


  5. I like reading “regular” books the BEST, but some times, my Kindle comes in handy…
    P.S. I read about 25% of my books on my Kindle 😉


  6. Pingback: Celebrity Reveal on the Importance of Reading « Positive Parental Participation

Comments are closed.