Every few months or so, an article appears disparaging digital media for children. The latest report I heard was that digital devices caused delayed speech development. There was no mention of what kind of digital device, type of use, media type displayed, nor the duration of use. I’ve looked for the original document but have yet to unearth the document spurring the news report.
I asked numerous adult friends which kind of books their children preferred…digital or paper. Hands down, the adults all said paper. One thought if the digital book had enhancements, her child might also like those. However, in a head-to-head comparison of print book and no frills digital book, the adults I asked all agreed, printed book.
I decided to conduct a non-scientific experiment. First, I chose a child unfamiliar with digital books. Yes, they do exist. Then I chose a book unknown to the child. The subject, Miss T, is three but as she says holding her fingers up, “…almost four!” Miss T and her Nana came for dinner and story time, with permission of Miss T’s mom.
At first, Miss T was fascinated to see that each page was the same. She inspected the bear, the butterflies, and strawberries on each screenshot and each page. Then somewhere along the way, she quit checking to see if they were the same. She pointed to the printed book, “You turn that one.” She took charge of swiping pages on the iPad.
Nana exhibited her surprise with the statement, “I never would’ve guessed that.”
I didn’t view Miss T’s decision as an actual preference, but as a practicality. For her little fingers, the paper pages were harder to turn. She’s also keen on sharing and taking turns. Once she mastered swiping the pages, she was at ease taking charge of the device while enjoying the story. She continued to enjoy the story both in print and pixels.
When we finished Baby Bear Sees Blue, Miss T asked, “Do you have Brown Bear? I saw Brown Bear.”
While opening Baby Bear Sees Blue, she saw the thumbnail for Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? in the digital library.
Once the book opened, Miss T did what we’ve all seen a thousand times before…she retold her version of the classic tale. It didn’t matter to her that she was viewing colored pixels instead of ink. She knew the book. She knew it in her heart…by her heart.
Certainly, digital devices can be misused, just as print can be misused. Like paper, digital devices are merely vehicles for delivering a story. Digital devices aren’t babysitters. It’s our job as parents, grandparents, teachers, and community friends to encourage healthy interactions with reading, no matter the method of delivery.
While Nana clearly preferred print, her granddaughter, Miss T, enjoyed Baby Bear Sees Blue in digital and print, side-by-side, without prejudice. She breezed through the digital edition of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? in the same fashion as a child retelling a memorized printed story. The delivery mechanism didn’t matter to her. The joy of a good story and sharing it with Nana, Miss Mary, and her new plush baby bear toy became a memory to treasure.
I’d love to know if your child has a preference for print or digital, or if like Miss T, enjoys a good story regardless of the medium.
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First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
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