Stephen King once said, “Books are uniquely portable magic.”
Flipping through pages of well-written books will transport you to different places around the world and even in other worlds. You will meet different characters from princesses to pirates, to bears and monsters, talking crayons or a silent little boy – most are funny, a few cowardly, some heroic and a few mysterious and dubious ones. However, they all mostly end happily ever after.
A generation ago, owning a book means carrying one and as you grow older, somehow books become thicker and heavier.
In this generation, owning books means carrying a gadget and the more books you have would not mean carrying a heavy bag but needing a bigger computer memory.
This generation, electronic books are already available. These are copies of traditional books and new books only available digitally. Currently, Google says there are 129,864, 880 books in the entire world in a 2010 report.
An electronic book or e-book/eBook/e-Book/ebook/digital book or e-edition is “is a book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on computers or other electronic devices.”
For children e-books are narrated with interactive features, sound effects and games.
However, experts in child development and education do not have enough research to really see if e-books benefit children more than traditional books. Whether or not e-books are better than traditional ones, e-books do appear to have certain advantages in itself.
Advantages of Good Quality E-books
Boost early reading skills
E-books have a dictionary, highlighted words, and games and pictures that help explain the story.
A study from the Centre for Literacy at the University of Akron found that animation and audio in e-books did seem to help young kids identify printed words. There may be other things that influenced the increase in the word recognition levels of the students but it was clear that the children were engaged.
E-books can be zoomed in and out so you can look at the words closer. It is also responsive to the children’s touch, each tap, swipe, flick will make words, and pictures move, wiggle, zoom, and make a sound. Although, these add-ons may sometimes be distracting if not guided by adults.
Due to the interactive nature of e-books, reading and re-reading becomes a rewarding activity. Repeated reading makes them improve vocabulary and literacy skills overall.
Caters to every learning style
A study showed that after children with developmental delays used e-books, there was a “significant improvement in their vocabulary as well as understanding about how words can be broken up into smaller parts.”
Convenient and accessible
Children and adults do not need to visit the library or the bookstore to purchase books from anywhere in the world. As long as it is available online, any book can easily be bought and downloaded. Storing is not a problem either as e-books only take the space of a computer or online cloud memory.
Most of the benefits here can also be true for traditional books, although the burden of making it more interactive and appealing falls on the laps of the adults reading it for the children.
Traditional or digital, learning happens best when children interacts with the books and the adults around them.
Like any other reading time with a child, always focus on the story and help the child comprehend it. Talk about the events and the characters and encourage children to imagine possibilities in the story by asking what if questions.
On the other hand, some people might say that traditional books have one big advantage over e-books as children may develop eye problems when reading e-books but not with traditional books. However, medical doctors also said that reading e-books do not necessarily cause eye problems although eyestrains may be common. They also say that these problems are also true for traditional books.
Another important thing to consider so we can maximise the benefits of digital books is its quality.
Adults should be critical of the types of e-books they download for the children. The Hanen Centre lists features to look for in good, quality e-books:
- Pictures and interactive “hotspots” should aid the understanding of the story.
- Games and other features should only be active after the narration of the story.
- Words are highlighted while narrator reads.
- Dictionary is available to help in children’s vocabulary development.
- Forward and backward buttons are available to help turn pages from left to right.
- Options for repeated reading of pages, sentences or specific words as needed by the reader.
A good story would always be a good and memorable one whether inked or digitized. The important thing is to read to the children and expose them to a world outside their own, to make them fall in love with books. To tickle their fantasy, nurture curiosity and make them love learning.
There is no better way to end this but to quote Dr. Seuss “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book (or an e-book) and read to a child.”
Special thanks to delightfulchildrensbooks for the main image.