Should you read to your children from traditional paper books or e-readers? Yes!
My niece recently asked me if she should read to her baby from a traditional book or from her iPad. She found the iPad more convenient and he loves the sounds that many online stories include. Reading to your baby has been proven benefits, so doing it in any form is better than nothing, but it got me thinking. I’m a computer teacher, yet I am a staunch advocate of reading from traditional books.
Though there are conflicting studies, most have shown reading comprehension improves when reading from a paper versus an LCD monitor. Hak and Joan Kim found that teenagers not only read more slowly from LCD e-readers than books (for the same article, 16 minutes versus 10 minutes respectively), but their comprehension dropped by 15% as well. And this is without the typical distractions associated with computers and tablets! Eye strain (both self-reported and a more objective measure of blinks per second) is also increased when reading from an LCD screen such as an iPad, computer, or Kindle Fire HD.
Traditional books offer a kinesthetic or hands on experience yet to be replicated in the “plastic” world. When you hold a book in your hand, you can feel how many pages you’ve read and how many you have left to go. Comprehension is aided by a location factor not possible with e-readers. You can often recollect where on the page you saw a name or a passage, the upper right corner of the page about a third of the way through the book, or toward the end of the book on the bottom of a page on the left. This means you are using more than your eyes when you read and therefore, bolstering comprehension.
Some reading specialists worry we are losing our ability to “slow read” as our reading time increases on the short-attention-span-fostering devices we favor. We click on a page, scan it for key words, skim the text and click on the next picture, video, or link that catches our eye. This is worrisome to teachers like me who see so many kids struggling to learn to read. If schools transition to a paperless format, which is far more cost effective, our kids will need to be able to read with comprehension on a screen. They’ll need to learn to avoid the distractions and manipulate text on a screen like we do in books, highlighting, underlining, taking notes in the margins. That all begins with just reading on screens when we’re young.
You read more quickly and remember more of what you read when reading an actual book, but there's no hiding from the future and we're headed for a digital world, so as a teacher, it's my responsibility to help my students develop the strategies and skills needed to succeed. So, when my niece asked if she should read to her baby on her iPad or from a book, my answer was, “Yes!”