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.
5/22/2014 11:46:36 pm
My son (now 4) is comfortable with both. He loves books and stories. He asks for stories (not devices - book, Kindle, iPad at bedtime). I sometimes make purchase choices for print or ebook based on price (or whether I think I can get a signed copy later). Last night, I made sure the Kindle and iPhone Kindle App had several picture books loaded and ready for a trip. We'll release the Sheep (Can't Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill) and an assortment of other picture books at bedtime while traveling.
5/23/2014 02:49:07 am
My grandchildren are comfy with both, but they've always had both. I've purchased additional print copies, even if I have digital, just for the autograph.
5/23/2014 12:42:51 am
At bedtime a book in print is the winner in my book. The bright screen of a digital device can delay bedtime.
5/23/2014 02:52:23 am
I find that most adults are more comfortable with print. At bedtime, I prefer a simple non-interactive book whether digital or print. Screen brightness can be adjusted, so I haven't found it to be an issue.
5/23/2014 11:38:30 am
Rhythm, it doesn't surprise me that you like paper better. Our retriever, Sailor LOVES paper books...he makes paper book confetti. He thinks we hide things in the digital book screen. Although, he can swipe the pages of a story since he doesn't need thumbs to do that.
5/25/2014 05:47:49 am
E-books are great for travel, but I am die hard for print. I love the look, feel and (yes) smell of a print book. Plus, keeping stacks of them forever is well ---- just a super treasure trove.
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