You are probably no stranger to the e-book vs. print debate, not just for children’s books but for adult books as well. E-books are increasingly popular because of their accessibility but are they good for young children? Should you allow extra screen time every night before bed for your child? These are some of the questions that weigh on parents when having to choose between e-books and print. There is still not enough research about the long-term impact of e-reading on children as young as 6- years of age.
If accessibility is an issue and a reason for choosing e-books when buying books for your child, you can choose to visit either physical or online book fairs to choose a variety of suitable books in one go at a good price point. You can also choose to allow your child to read e-books only when travelling to lessen the burden of packing several books when on holiday. Maybe the way forward is not to say no to e-books but to understand when to allow them and when to dissuade their use.
Printed books are still the most preferred choice among parents for their children and may be better for very young children to experience the story via tactile experiences built into the story like opening a flap that represents a door to see what is inside the house or touching the fluffy fur of the bear that talks – for young children experiencing the story via touch and feel is as important and interesting as colours and large images. E-books deny preschoolers this opportunity. Parents who like to read an e-book to their child should consider the level of distraction the device can produce. It is easy for the child to be distracted from the story and what the story is trying to get across as a message to the child and be entertained by all the sounds and pushing of buttons, something the parent should be alert to.
That said, there is room for e-books in a child’s life. Digital books may do better than print for older children because it is interactive. Children who are independent readers can check for pronunciation and click on a link to expand on a concept or theme that is introduced in the e-book which can serve to deepen and expand the child’s knowledge on the subject. The interactive nature of using a device for reading translates to expanding a child’s vocabulary much more easily and quickly than via print. The child can check for pronunciation and meaning as soon as they come across the word making them confident in using the word in their everyday conversation. E-reading can significantly improve and increase vocabulary compared to print reading for this reason. An e-book allows children who are visual to pick up the habit of reading, an opportunity they would have missed if print was the only option available to them.