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Ages & Stages

Children and Books in a Digital World

Reading opens up a world of possibilities for kids. Their vocabulary, imagination and curiosity expand as they learn to read. Books with rhymes, rhythms, and repetition captivate their attention. Reading books fosters brain connections essential for the development of language, social skills, and emotional well-being. And by reading together, you strengthen your parent-child bonds. The benefits go on and on.

Types of children's books available

In addition to traditional printed books, children's books may have interactive features like pop-ups, lift-a-flap, and touch-and-feel with sound and visual effects. And, of course, a growing number of digital books are available. This wide variety of book formats may leave you wondering if the benefits of reading a digital book or educational devices are the same as those of a printed book. Read on to learn about some of the latest research findings.

Print books for kids

A sensory experience. Print books offer a reading experience with defining features such as richer design and higher-quality illustrations. Children absorb more information and can better recall a story plot when reading a book that involves all their senses. The joy of flipping through pages, keeping bookmarks, feeling the paper or smelling the book adds further interest to the child.

Less distraction, more discussion. Print books are less distracting than e-books because the child is less likely to have their attention diverted by hyperlinks, for example. Having fewer distractions while reading is conducive to having parent-child conversations that connect the story to the child's own experiences. Kids learn language, expression, and communication through these discussions. Several studies suggest that children learn more from a print book than an e-book.

Judged by their cover. Printed books also have attractive covers. Children are more likely to pick them up and reread previously enjoyed stories because they are more visible and easier to access. Encourage your child's love of reading by letting them pick a book to read. Read a favorite print book together to reinforce the family bond as children look forward to bedtime reading rituals.

E-books for kids

Personalized format. An e-book consists of text, illustrations, and images like a print book. But with the reflowable layout of an e-book, the pages automatically adjust to the device's screen size. This allows children to learn and enjoy books in a format personalized to their preferences instead of the static design of print books. An e-book is a book available in a digital format readable on electronic devices like a laptop, tablet, mobile phone or e-book reader. Nonglare screens makes it easier to read in the sunlight, and the battery can last up to a month.

Access & storage. Some online sources for e-books require a subscription. Local libraries may offer free online access to select e-books. You can store thousands of books at a time. It can be convenient to transfer e-books to handheld devices because they are immediately accessible. They're also portable, lighter and less expensive than print books. However, internet connectivity is needed for readers to access e-books that haven't already been downloaded.

Interactive features. Technology-enhanced e-books have interactive features such as music, sound effects, animations and buttons that encourage kids to learn and read. Reading activity can be more engaging for children with features such as reading aloud, zooming in on an image, or looking up a word in the dictionary. Some e-readers let you track your reading progress and include hints on difficult words. Adding too many enhancements, though, can distract children from the story and make it hard to remember the details. When it comes to engaging with the child, studies show that parents tend to engage less when sharing an e-book than with a print book.

Are printed books or e-books better for kids?

So, is it better to flip or swipe the page when it comes to story time? Choosing between a print book and an e-reader is a topic of debate among parents, educators and children. Can e-readers help or hurt a child's development as a reader or their love of reading? There are no clear answers to this question.

The benefits of reading books in any format

One thing is certain, though: reading in any format is good for kids. Consider experimenting with both formats and choose the one that works best for your child.

Also remember that, whether it's a print or e-book , reading together helps your child focus, develop curiosity and social skills and expand their imagination. It's also a great way to spend quality time with your child. Whether you're sharing a print or digital book together, just enjoy and keep reading.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from HealthyChildren Magazine, Summer 2022 (Copyright © 2022 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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