The question of print versus electronic book is often seen as a point of individual preference, except when talking about children. As e-book sales have plateaued, one area of publishing that has somewhat resisted e-book development is Children’s books. Furthermore, Children’s e-book sales are dropping off greatly. From last year to this year alone, “Childrens/YA Books had $111.7 million in sales in Jan 2016, down 20.4% from $140.3 million”(Bookbusinessmag.com).
While many publishers offer e-versions of their picture books, or interactive websites and video games, nothing has completely convinced parents to sway from print books. Parents want children to be engaged readers and the e-book world adds visual stimuli, including videos and games, that distract the young readers. Additionally, parents fear exposing their children at a young age to bright electronic screens.
A 2013 Huffington post article assembled nine studies that demonstrated why print books are better than e-books. Reasons ranging from negative effects on sleep behavior to limited levels of comprehension, were compiled to explain why print books haven’t yet been overtaken by the digital world. The “harmful” effects of digital reading are echoed and even amplified in studies about the children’s book industry.
It seems that the overwhelming argument is that e-books allow children to get distracted more easily than print and offer no additional benefit to the child. Research into the effects of e-books on children is slow and limited, but studies are coming out which may reassure parents who see the potential of digital innovation.
Lisa Guernsey and Michael H. Levine have recently published a book entitled Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens. In their book, these co-authors compile the latest research on the innovations in e-books for children. They delve into how parents affect children’s reading behaviors more so than the physical nature of the books. Reviewing several studies, Guernsey and Levine conclude that, “the children who learned the most were the ones who read the educational e-books with an adult assisting them” (naeyc.org)
“In one study, for example, e-books led to improved phonemic awareness and print-concept awareness among preschoolers—especially those with learning disabilities…
“Researchers compared four conditions: children reading educational e-books by themselves, children reading educational e-books with an adult, children reading print versions of the same books with an adult, and a control condition that equated to regular kindergarten classroom time. Later, the children were tested on their reading progress. Across the four conditions, the children who learned the most were the ones who read the educational e-books with an adult assisting them” (naeyc.org).
Scholastic also reported on the e-book vs. print book debate and outlined several of the typical conclusions, citing that print books are better for “The hands-on experience, falling in love with reading, [and] Focusing a child’s attention,” whereas digital books are meant for “boosting early reading skills” (scholastic.com). The overarching argument appears to be that co-reading, whether with an e-book or print book, has the best results. The key is for parents to show their children how to be an engaged reader.
“Technology will never replace good parenting and good teachers. So when you read to your child — regardless of whether it’s a traditional or e-book — keep the conversation lively” (scholastic.com).
By: Jenna Miley