Reading with a caregiver trumps reading an e-book alone


Over the past decade, portable devices such as smartphones and tablets have become one of the most ubiquitous and irreplaceable tools for communication, entertainment and education. Indeed, 98% of children under the age of 8 in all socioeconomic strata have access to a mobile device, and children aged 3 to 5 spend an average of two and a half hours a day using screens. Although young children spend far more time using screens than the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, edtech – the combination of technology and education – is increasingly integrated into preschool classrooms.

As young children’s screen time continues to increase, parents in the United States have mixed opinions about the screen time habits of their young children.

How do e-books versus print books potentially affect children’s learning?

Although most parents agree that the media children interact with promotes their learning (72%) and creativity (60%), some studies suggest that parents are overly optimistic about the value of screens in their children’s lives. children. DeLoache and Chiong (2009), for example, reported that parents of 2-year-olds thought the Brainy Baby and Baby Einstein videos were “educational” and rewarding. Yet the Disney company was forced to offer refunds for these DVDs at an estimated cost of $100 million in the absence of any proof that they were educational. It is important to understand the settings in which education technology works best and the situations where it is less effective than interactions with an adult. One such example is children’s engagement with e-books.

While reading with children supports their development and even reduces stress for parents. During shared reading, many parents point to pictures and ask their children questions. These and related practices, combined with following children who point and answering their questions, fuel children’s language skills and teach them about the world. In particular, caregivers who connect the book to children’s lived experiences contribute to the understanding of children’s stories.

Parents generally have a positive perception of reading printed books with their illiterate young children. However, parents believe that print books are more educational and entertaining for their children than e-books and are more likely to use print books during routines, such as bedtime, and for bonding. However, when parents are busy, such as when preparing meals or taking a shower, they can give children an e-book to keep them entertained.

Our just-published research suggests that reading an e-book alone can not replace adult-child reading.

A recent study found that children can learn just as well from e-books as they do from traditional books when the improvements are simple. While children may learn some content by being read by an e-book alone, our just published research suggests that reading an e-book alone can not replace adult-child reading. Additionally, reading an e-book alone cannot provide the emotional closeness and physical contact that reading with a parent provides.

In particular, the emotional experiences that come from reading books together disappear when children are read by an e-book alone rather than by an adult. Yet the positive feelings associated with shared book reading contribute to children’s emerging literacy skills and motivation to read.

Our study on the shared and independent reading of (e-)books

A study from our laboratory compared the physiological arousal of 4-year-old children under three different conditions. In one condition, parents and their children read a hard copy of a book together. In the second, they read the e-book version of the same book together. In the final condition, the children listened to the e-book sitting alone. Parents and children wore a Fitbit-like wristband to measure skin conductivity, a measure of physiological arousal that captures engagement while reading a book. Since engagement is necessary for learning, more excitement means the child is attentive and more likely to learn something new.

Children showed significantly greater physiological arousal and more positive emotions (smiling and laughing) when reading with a parent than when listening to an e-book alone. Above all, the format of the book does not matter! Children and parents had high levels of excitement and positive emotions when reading together, whether reading an e-book or a traditional book. These results mean that shared book reading concerns the interactions that occur between a child and its parent. Listening to e-books alone removes the “meat” of interaction which not only promotes a love of reading, but expands children’s world by developing their vocabulary, knowledge of sentence structure and comprehension. of text. Giving a child an e-book to listen to independently reduces children’s enjoyment and learning compared to reading a traditional book or an e-book with a caregiver. The shared reading of books, whatever their format, cannot be replaced by technology.

The shared reading of books, whatever their format, cannot be replaced by technology.

Given the ubiquity of educational technologies, it is crucial to explore which experiences with technology enrich young children’s learning and which experiences should not replace critical interactions between children and their caregivers. Parents may consider having the children in their lives listening to an e-book rather than engaging in shared book reading, especially at bedtime when everyone is tired at the end of a busy day. filled. Although e-books can be engaging and educational, the message of our research is clear: the positive emotional experiences associated with shared book reading are not generated when children listen to an e-book alone. An e-book also cannot offer the personalized dialogue that takes place when a caregiver reads with a child.

Future research needs to examine how we can educate caregivers, including preschool teachers and parents, about the benefits of shared book reading and, in turn, foster children’s love of reading and learning. Educational technology has its limits when it comes to reading shared books with young children. Children who are primarily offered e-books are missing out on an emotional and intellectual experience without exception.

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