Traditional vs. electronic

When it comes to fostering a love of reading and building early literacy skills, traditional books beat out electronic books by a wide margin, according to a new first-of-its-kind study.

The findings in “Electronic and Traditional Books: Boon or Bust for Interactive Reading?” surprised even lead author Molly Collins, assistant professor at Erikson Institute in Chicago. Though she suspected there would be a disparity between the two kinds of books, she says she was struck by a two-fold difference.

The study comes on the heels of a call for more research on the effects of electronic media. The Kaiser Family Foundation found in 2005 that two-thirds of families surveyed believed manufacturers’ claims that electronic toys such as talking books are"very important” to a child’s intellectual development.

The new reading study, conducted by the Erikson Institute, Temple University in Pennsylvania and the University of Delaware, reveals that parents and children take a more active role in reading with traditional books, talking about the story or the pictures and relating what was read to the child’s life or experiences, Collins says. With e-books, the books, not the parents, lead the interaction, which diminished any discussion between child and parent, she says.

Thirty-three children participated in the study, including 14 from the Chicago Children’s Museum.

While e-books may provide some entertainment and allow children to use the consoles by themselves if an adult isn’t available to read to them, she says the study shows that parents are two times more likely to interact with their child with a traditional book.

The takeaway message for parents:"You are the most critical feature of children’s reading experiences. Don’t let the e-book substitute for reading with your children,” she says.

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