Is story time with an eBook changing the way parents and toddlers interact?

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Choosing which book to read isn’t the only choice families make now in story time – they must also choose between print or electronic version.

But traditional printed books may have an advantage over e-books when it comes to the quality time shared between parents and their children, suggests a new study.

The research, led by the University of Michigan’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital and involving 37 parent-child pairs, found that parents and children verbalize and interact less with e-books than with printed books. The results appear in the newspaper Pediatrics, which is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Shared reading promotes children’s language development, literacy, and bonding with parents. We wanted to know how electronics might change that experience,” says lead author Tiffany Munzer, MD, pediatric developmental behavioral researcher in Mott.

“We found that when parents and children read printed books, they spoke more frequently and the quality of their interactions was better.”

Parent-child pairs in the study used three book formats: printed books, basic e-books on a tablet, and enhanced e-books with additions such as sound effects and animation. With e-books, not only did pairs interact less, but parents tended to talk less about the story and more about the technology itself. Sometimes this included instructions on the device, like telling children not to press buttons or change the volume.

Munzer notes that many of the interactions shared between parents and young children while reading may seem subtle, but actually help promote healthy child development.

For example, parents might point to a picture of an animal in the middle of a story and ask their child, “What does a duck say?” “

Or, parents can relate part of a story to something the child has experienced with comments like, “Remember when we went to the beach? Reading time also lends itself to open-ended questions, such as asking children what they think of the book or the characters.

Munzer says these practices, involving comments and questions that go beyond content, are believed to promote expressive language, engagement, and children’s literacy.

“Parents strengthen their children’s ability to acquire knowledge by associating new content with their children’s experiences,” says Munzer. “Research tells us that parent-led conversations are especially important for toddlers because they learn and retain new information better from in-person interactions than from digital media.”

However, such practices occurred less frequently with e-books, with parents asking fewer simple questions and commenting less on the storyline compared to printed books.

The study suggests that improvements to e-books likely interfered with parents’ ability to engage in parent-guided conversation while reading.

Munzer adds that nonverbal interactions, including warmth, closeness, and enthusiasm during reading time, also create positive associations with reading that will likely stay with children as they grow older.

The authors recommend that future studies examine specific aspects of tablet-book design that support parent-child interaction. Parents who choose to read e-books with toddlers should also consider engaging as they would with the print version and minimize the emphasis on the elements of the technology itself.

“Reading together is not only a family ritual cherished in many homes, but one of the most important developmental activities parents can undertake with their children,” says lead author Jenny Radesky, MD, pediatrician at behavioral development in Mott.

“Our results suggest that printed books elicit a better parent-child reading experience compared to e-books. Pediatricians may wish to continue to encourage parents to read printed books with their children, especially for toddlers. and young children who still need the support of their parents to learn from any form of media. ”

Study analyzes toddlers’ reading and learning habits through e-books compared to printed books

Provided by the University of Michigan

Quote: Is Story Time With An eBook Changing The Way Parents And Toddlers Interact? (March 25, 2019, retrieved December 27, 2021 from

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