Thursday, July 5, 2012

E-Readers Vs. Books in Print

I came across an article in TIME magazine regarding E-readers and how they can actually impede a child's reading skills. I was intrigued. I mean....E-readers are everywhere, and even the youngest of learners use them! I know my own children have LeapPad Tablets, and enjoy using Grandma's iPad whenever the opportunity arises. A preschool student last year said to me, "Mrs. Powell, I don't use a computer at home....we have a tablet." Well, well, well....fancy for you, little one! 

On top of that, I had a parent laugh at me when I handed out cute little book marks with a quote about how children become readers on the laps on their parents. Really....outright laughed...and kind of scoffed...stating something like: "I can't believe teachers still hand out book marks with all the technology we have these days!" I was stunned. Really? And how do you suppose a child SHOULD acquire their language and literacy skills? Solely from an electronic device? I think not. 

Photo borrowed from (IRONIC?!)

In a technology driven era, one can hardly deny that iPads, Leapfrog, V-tech, and other devices are not a prevalent part of a child's daily reading---provided they DO spend time reading at home and that the parents make it a part of the child's daily reading!! (I won't even think about the children who might not be getting their daily dose of book time this summer....okay, I am thinking about it, and it breaks my heart!) 

Electronic devices are a great supplement to a child's leisurely reading...but it cannot replace human interaction, communication, and questioning. In fact, researchers are finding that it impedes comprehension to a great degree. As teachers, we know that can happen...and we know how to use technology for purposeful, productive learning. However, parents may need our help and our professional recommendations. Check out this article from the NY Times

Here are a few key points from the articles: 

  • Using an E-reader causes parents (or the device) to spout too many directives. "Turn the device this way, click here, don't hold it like that!"
  • There are too many sounds and animations---it distracts the reader and significantly reduces comprehension. 
  • Parents are less likely to ask questions about the story...rather on an E-reader they will say: "show me, good job, go to the next one..."---meaningless chatter reduces comprehension
  • E-reader stories/apps rarely relate to real life. They are not relevant to the text to self connections! 
  • Choose wisely---on an E-reader, choose a book that has less bells and whistles---not too much to click on (few animations, less chatter or game like stories)
While there is not a ton of research out there, it is ongoing and there will be more, I am certain. The research that is out there is very consistent in saying that books in actual print/on paper---are still the #1 source for developing a love of reading, and all the core skills that are involved with becoming a good reader.

I've made a mental note to bring up this topic occasionally in my newsletters and classroom/parent blog throughout the year. I'd like to feed them tidbits of researched information and offer ideas for finding a happy balance between technology and print. It's going to be pertinent for educators to help parents understand what's important & why technology doesn't always win out---no matter how glamorous it may seem! 

I LOVE technology, don't get me wrong....and I implement it even with my youngest of learners....but I also feel that it is my responsibility to figure out a happy medium---and pass along that knowledge to parents and families so that we can continue to make great strides in the success of each child! And for your non-readers, or those that do not like to read....we can't deny that flashy technology isn't a great hook! It IS! Just be careful in the extent in which you use it. 

Oh...and if you are still a teacher that hands out book marks (it's not a bad thing---I'm doing it again this year!)....go grab your download HERE (scroll all the way down)! Hand them out proudly!! 

Add a ribbon and cutsie them up even more! Like in this Pinterest photo

Thoughts? Experiences? Let me know what you think....I'd love to hear from you! 


  1. Wow...this was a really great post. I think the big point is that when kids are young and building their concepts about print...they need to interact with their families and with actual books. Last year I saw a transition in my 4th graders. We did the 40 book challenge and my students love to read. At one point, some of my students transitioned to reading their books on e-readers. The reason- they were reading through books so fast that their families couldn't keep up with their demand. I think by the point students are reading higher level chapter books, it is okay for them to start transitioning to an e-reader. However, like you, I worry about the long term effects of using an e-reader versus traditional literature.

    1. HI Tina,
      Thanks for the conversation/feedback! I'm with you---there is a big difference between emergent and beginning readers, versus more fluent readers. The articles I read were geared toward younger students whose reading also contains pictures...which leaves too many opportunities for animations, sounds, and game like play versus reading for the sake of reading.

      You bring up a really good point with families purchasing books online for older students. In terms of cost, it's a no brainer. Books are expensive, where as E-books are typically $5 and under! You can't beat that for new books. It's also a great vocab builder for those older students who can click on words and get a definition.

      It's goes back to the age old saying---everything is better in moderation!

      Nice "chatting" with you this morning! :)

    2. * correction: more fluent or more experienced readers.

  2. Amen, amen, and amen! Thank you for such a timely and relevant post... I will be sharing it on my blog (hopefully some more visitors will find you just as amazing as I do!).

    1. Awe, you are so kind, Michelle!! Thank you for reading my blog, and finding this article most useful! We are certainly on a technology boom and it will be interesting to see how we will continue to do great things with our students, while holding onto traditional, effective, proven methods as well!

  3. Great post! Our district just bought every classroom 4 Kindle Fires. So this is a great article to share with my team. Technology is great but there has to be a balance. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. As teachers we need to bring it to the attention of our parents. I hope you don't mind if I give you a shout out in my next post.

    1. You are so lucky to have great technology in your classrooms---I am envious! I do not mind at all if you put me in one of your posts----thank you so much! :)

  4. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing this post & directing us to the article! Definitely worth putting some thought into!

    First Grade Delight

  5. Thanks for sharing such a thought provoking post. It took me a while to transition from real books to my kindle for me personally. But now I love my kindle but it's no substitute for a real book.
    Ms. Kerri and her Krazy Kindergarten

    1. I agree---it is a hard transition...and I still love my tangible books, too!