While the rise of the Kindle and the iPad and the e-book threatens to have bookshelves go the way of the record collection, one group is sticking with old-fashioned bound paper. Children. According to a recent article in The New York Times — For Their Children, Many E-Book Fans Insist on Paper – even tech savvy, gadget friendly parents opt for turning real pages when it comes to reading to and with their young children.
“They want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals,” the Times reports. “Parents also say they like cuddling up with their child and a book, and fear that a shiny gadget might get all the attention. Also, if little Joey is going to spit up, a book may be easier to clean than a tablet computer.
“’It’s intimacy, the intimacy of reading and touching the world. It’s the wonderment of her reaching for a page with me,’ said Leslie Van Every, 41, a loyal Kindle user in San Francisco whose husband, Eric, reads on his iPhone. But for their 2 ½-year-old daughter, Georgia, dead-tree books, stacked and strewn around the house, are the lone option.”
The sentiment that Van Every expresses dovetails with experts’ understanding of how children learn to read. The young child’s tactile experience of handling a book and turning pages is part of the journey to literacy. So is the critical oral language development – not to mention social and emotional development – that occurs when a child, sitting in the lap of a loving adult, listens to a story being read aloud and engages in playful conversation about the unfolding tale or colorful pictures on the page.
Sales of e-books for children under 8 represent a modest 5% of sales of children’s books, the Times notes. E-books for adults, on the other hand, comprise more than a quarter of sales in some adult categories.
“And here is a question for a digital-era debate: Is anything lost by taking a picture book and converting it to an e-book? Junko Yokota, a professor and director of the Center for Teaching Through Children’s Books at National Louis University in Chicago, thinks the answer is yes, because the shape and size of the book are often part of the reading experience,” the Times reports. “Wider pages might be used to convey broad landscapes, or a taller format might be chosen for stories about skyscrapers. Size and shape ‘become part of the emotional experience, the intellectual experience. There’s a lot you can’t standardize and stick into an electronic format,’ said Ms. Yakota.”