Tablets. Phones. Kindles. Today, electronics make it easier than ever to access a book.
A few weeks ago, Tiffany and I presented about Bookroo at an event called 1 Million Cups. One of the questions we were asked was, “Are you worried about how ebooks will affect your business?”
As a Human Development graduate, I recently studied reading and screen time in childhood. No one knows exactly the impact of children living a life with technology at their fingertips–researchers are calling these children “digital natives.” But we do know that screen time is a worry for researchers and parents alike, and ebooks count as screen time. (By the way, find great activities to minimize screen time this summer here).
Our answer to this question is simple: We aren’t worried about ebooks, because there is just something about physically holding, touching, and turning pages that cannot be replaced. There is something magical when you’re a child and you get to pick 10 books off the shelf for story time. The reason we started (and love!) Bookroo is because it is an educational company. We get to help children fall in love with reading and learning from an early age, and while we’re at it, we get to help parents find great books, build their library, provide activities for them to do with their children, and limit their worries about their kids watching TV all day.
Even so, I decided to look into ebooks and see how the research compares them to printed books. So here are some top points that could be helpful for you to know as a parent:
Ebooks provide plenty of pros and cons in the literary world. Let’s start with the pros!
- Technology allows children more access to books anywhere they go. (1)
- Some studies have found that struggling, less confident readers have benefited through ebooks, particularly in accuracy and comprehension skills. (1)
- Finally, students who read daily online in addition to reading in print are nearly three times as likely to report they enjoy reading. (2)
Now for the cons.
- While ebooks can enhance a child’s reading if paired with daily print reading, ebooks alone do not. Print is better than ebooks, and print + ebooks together are better than print alone. (2)
- The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) advises against excessive screen time. Particularly, their statement says to avoid any screen time for infants or children under the age of two, as “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Their studies show that children currently average seven hours of screen time each day–between phones, tablets, TVs, computers, video games, and other electronics–and this may later lead to “attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.” (3)
- While there are great ebooks, many are mixed as highly commercialized products with video and games, removing the literary aspect. (2)
- The National Literacy Trust’s 2012 survey shows that children who read some print daily have a higher reading enjoyment and were above the expected reading level at their age than those who read screens only. (2)
To sum it up, a developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist, Maryanne Wolf, stated, “There is physicality in reading, maybe even more than we want to think about as we lurch into digital reading – as we move forward perhaps with too little reflection. I would like to preserve the absolute best of older forms, but know when to use the new.” (2)
Lastly, this is a relatively new field of study with a general lack of consensus. More accurate research can only come with time! If you or your children enjoy ebooks, it seems the best idea for now is to mix in plenty of print. If you enjoy ebooks because of their accessibility and struggle to make it to the library, that’s where Bookroo wants to help! You can even find a special deal on our Instagram. :)