November 17, 2022
Parents spend time every day around the world reading aloud to their children. Whether they pick up soft baby books, board books for toddlers, storybooks for young children, or chapter books for older kids, the practice of reading aloud to children is common practice and a beloved part of childhood for many kids and parents alike.
In our busy world, a physical book might not be as convenient to use as digital platforms parents have access to on tablets or smartphones. But is reaching for a physical book to read to children that important?
While we may not be able to recount why reading aloud is so critical for children, everyone can recognize that children benefit from hearing stories read to them. But reading aloud has proven benefits for childhood literacy and social and emotional development.
Just about every household has at least one – if not more – digital devices. From tablets to smartphones to laptops, electronics are an inescapable part of our lives. It’s no surprise that digital platforms, including e-readers and reading apps, make reaching for a book to read to your little one convenient and easy. For parents who make daily reading sessions a priority, reaching for a digital platform that provides an almost endless supply of new titles and book topics to choose from is a tempting choice.
While digital platforms are not new, we don’t really know too much about how swapping out reading from a physical book with an e-book or reading app will impact children. So pediatric developmental researcher Tiffany Munzer, MD set out to discover the differences between reading aloud to children with a physical book versus on an e-reading platform or reading app and how choosing a digital book will impact children’s development.
The study used a tablet reading app that offered extension activities outside of the reading platform, including interactive buttons and an auto-play feature. Researchers found that children were more responsive to parents while they read to them from a physical book and that parents actually verbalized more interactions with children when they read from a book than with an electronic device. Since we know that little ones develop language, vocabulary, and bond over the shared experience of reading a book together, using an electronic version of books will be detrimental to their development.
Another finding from this study also showed that even when parents did engage the child in conversation around the story and experience, the language and quality of interactions appeared to be clearly dampened when the parent was using a digital platform. Having fewer conversations and using developmentally less-rich language, over time, could impact a child’s future communication, listening skills, and creative responses to what they read.
While the researchers do not go so far as to imply that reading aloud to your child from a tablet or electronic platform is harmful, they do caution that it is clear that e-books do not provide the same growth opportunities for kids that reading aloud from a physical book can.
Even without science to back up how we feel about reading aloud from a physical book, we know that the experiences of turning the crisp paper pages or of little hands pointing to brightly colored pictures can’t be replicated with an e-book or app on a tablet. So how can caregivers get the most out of the experience of snuggling up with a good story and a little one eager to listen?
The beauty of writing a book for children is that authors can present silly, funny, simple, and even surprisingly complex topics in a language that kids respond to. Bright colors, crisp photos, and engaging artwork all add to the excitement both kids and caregivers feel when they turn the pages of a book. Parents love to see children’s books that present charming characters that teach their children about life and family and the world around them, but they also know that kids love to laugh and enjoy the books that are read to them, too.
And parents know that the joy of reading aloud to their children begins with an author’s vision for a new story brought to life on the pages of their next book. And many writers choose to self-publish their own children’s books with a trusted printing company like Publishing Xpress because authors have the freedom to write and publish the stories and characters of their children’s books exactly how they envision it, in hopes of becoming the very book that families will slide off the shelf for their nightly reading session together.
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