Ebooks for Children: Good News, Bad News or Both?


I have fond memories of my mother reading me stories of Angus, the little Scottie whose square of sunshine was stolen by the nefarious cat, and Peter Minnie Mouser May, after which my own beloved kitten was named.

And what exactly do e-reading devices have to do with these happy memories?

Absolutely nothing.

Nor do they have any connection to the fun I had reading science fiction at the Bay while my mother did her shopping.

My ten-year-old grandson, an avid reader, professes no preference for either pbooks or eBooks. However, his eleven-year-old cousin claims eBooks are “easier to read.”

One thing for sure, eBooks for children here to stay. According to Digital Book World’s Jeremy Greenfield, 67% of U.S. children aged two to thirteen are reading eBooks. BookNet Canada predicts a surge in e-reading, with parents reporting an average of 6.4 devices per household.

So what do the experts think about this?

In a study quoted in Publishers Weekly, parent-child (three to six years old) pairs read a print book and either an enhanced or basic eBook together. Interestingly, the print book and basic eBook yielded about the same results in terms of discussing the story, whereas those who were reading the enhanced eBook spent more time talking about the device!

When child-parent pairs read enhanced e-books, the children recalled less of the story than when the print version was read. This leads, naturally, to the conclusion that print and basic e-books are better for reading comprehension.

But not all enhanced e-books are the same. Those with cartoons and other such features will, of course, distract children from reading–but how does it work to listen to the story with each word highlighted as it is read?

An interesting study cited by LookTracker.com found that “When a caregiver reads an e-book to a child, nine percent of his/her gaze is focused on the copy vs. 91 percent on the images. When the e-book is read to a child by the application with word highlighting, 41 percent of his/her gaze is focused on the text vs. 59 percent on the images.”

My take on the subject? Cuddle with your child with a print book or basic e-book. When you’re busy, or if your child needs to build his/her word decoding skills, go for the eBook with word highlighting. And for entertainment, go for the enhanced e-book with bells and whistles.

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