Are print books better for young learners and especially toddlers? Ask almost anyone in early child development and they will likely say yes, print books are so much better in so many ways. Many educational technology specialists — people like me who love learning with technology — will say the same thing. You can also read this New York Times article by pediatrician, Perri Klass.
Dr. Klass writes about a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and published at the journal Pediatrics. They conducted their research with 37 parent-child pairs who read together in three formats — print, electronic, and electronic with extra bells and whistles such as sound effects. Readers were videotaped. Toddlers and parents verbalized but interacted and collaborated less with electronic books. Then the researchers studied the recordings and coded the verbalizations and behavior or the parents and children.
Click on the picture below to watch researcher Tiffany G Munzer, MD, offer an easy-to-understand explanation of the research results. The video is posted at the journal site.
Conclusions of this study reinforce the observations that I have made when I read with and to young children. If we are reading a book, we have much more conversation as we read, especially more in-depth about what we hear and see. If I am using a screen-based book, I often have to slow down the child who is eager to move on, and especially so with cues that remind a child to turn pages. Moreover, sometimes engaging in conversation about the story is difficult — and I’ll need to repeat myself or get the child’s attention — because the child whom I am with is concentrating so completely on the screen.
I speak with parents on a fairly regular basis, people who are delighted with digitized stories and especially how they help kids learn numbers and letters. My response? Electronic learning resources have a place, but they are more rote learning rather than collaborative and interactive learning and should be in addition to a great deal of parent and child time spent reading books. Twenty-first-century learning is not all about screens.
I hope that the journal, Pediatrics, when it publishes an article that clearly supports good learning, can make it freely accessible so that schools and teachers can access the research and those amazing graphics and share them with the parents of young children.
Quote from the Research Introduction
Shared book reading is of the most important developmental activities parents can engage in with their children. Shared book reading exposes children to more sophisticated speech and knowledge, and provides unhurried time to build attachment, in turn promoting executive functioning skills.