Matt Richtel and Julie Bosman of the NY Times reported that many tech savvy adults may love their Kindles, but For Their Children, Many EBook Fans Insist on Paper.
They found that, “Print books may be under siege from the rise of e-books, but they have a tenacious hold on a particular group: children and toddlers. Their parents are insisting this next generation of readers spend their early years with old-fashioned books.”
Their reasons for limiting children to paper books are based on personal feelings about the reading experience.
“‘It’s intimacy, the intimacy of reading and touching the world. It’s the wonderment of her reaching for a page with me,’ said Leslie Van Every, 41, a loyal Kindle user in San Francisco.”
The preference for traditional books for young children is evident in the market place. According to the Times, “As the adult book world turns digital at a faster rate than publishers expected, sales of e-books for titles aimed at children under 8 have barely budged. They represent less than 5 percent of total annual sales of children’s books, several publishers estimated, compared with more than 25 percent in some categories of adult books.”
Other than parental feelings about books is there a reason children are better off with print books than ebooks? Not really.
On the one hand, “Junko Yokota, a professor and director of the Center for Teaching Through Children’s Books at National Louis University in Chicago, says size and shape “become part of the emotional experience, the intellectual experience. There’s a lot you can’t standardize and stick into an electronic format.”
Alexandra Samuel Director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, the co-founder of Social Signal, and a blogger for Oprah.com and the Harvard Business Review, poses the question, “Do eBooks Help or Hurt Children’s Literacy?” Her conclusion, “Precisely because children’s ebooks have been so successful in blurring the line between book and app, and between narrative and game, they can lose the perceived purity of the reading experience. Our emphasis on reading as the cornerstone of education and learning means that parents resist anything that appears to distract from or dilute that reading experience — particularly if it feels like that new paradigm of evil, Video Games.”
On the other hand, School Library Journal in an article “Are eBooks Any Good?” reaches a different conclusion. It cites research with third to fifth grade students in Missouri in which one group used traditional books while another worked with the the Tumblebooks ebook program. Three months after starting the project, the average fluency rate for the Tumblebook group was 23 percentage points higher than that of the control group.
Probably the best advice is that offered by the Evanston, Illinois Public Library in its blog EPL Off the Shelf. “Clearly, ebooks can help engage reluctant readers, yet the tactile experience of turning pages and sharing a book with an adult can’t be ignored either.” Experts don’t “see this as an either/or choice, but stress that different books work better in different formats, and that parents and teachers need to choose what works best for their child at a given point in his or her development.”