In the golden age of e-books and tablets, many parents will undoubtedly be happy to hear that printed books are still very much alive and kicking when it comes to one very important audience: children.
A recent study published in Pediatrics has found that children benefit more from reading hard copy books with their parents or guardians, versus reading on a tablet or e-book. The study, which observed 37 pairs of parents and children reading Little Critter stories for five minutes, found that hard books produce a much more engaging and bonding experience for both parties.
During the study, the subjects were randomly given three types of reading material: traditional print books, tablets, or e-books which came with sounds and visual effects. Researchers took note of the number and type of engagements both children and adults had with each device - including pointing, questions, and checking out the page. They discovered that printed books elicited the most interactions, and even allowed the pair to read more of the story.
Not surprisingly, they also found that e-books were the most distracting, and children tended to be more curious about how they worked, rather than curious about the story itself. In fact, researchers went so far as to say that they took away creative and imaginative moments from the experience. But with print books, parents and children were free to create their own sounds - and they did.
Dr. Tiffany Munzer, a fellow in development behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and lead researcher in the study, lauded the traditional book for its ability to bring out the best in both kids and adults.
“The print book is really the gold standard in eliciting positive interactions between parents and their children,” she said. She added that the goal of the study was to help parents focus on activities that help create and foster these interactions.
This study is certainly not the first to explore the books versus screens scenario. A few years ago, researchers in Japan studied the impact of television on the brains of 276 children. Not only did it find the more hours of television the kids watched, the lower their verbal test results became, it also discovered that children who watched more TV became more aggressive and had lower reasoning abilities.
While reading with children in any form is certainly beneficial, it's clear which method takes the cake. And while there are certainly many benefits to tablets and e-books, experts say that traditional print books lead to a more meaningful and engaging experience - for everyone.