There is lots of debate about babies and toddlers using/watching screens. The general thought seems to be less screen time is best. As children get older, there are plenty of apps and games that help pre-schoolers and emergent readers learn the alphabet and practice phonetic sounds.
What about when you are using your tablet specifically to read books? Do you let your child use a tablet to read? Does that count as screen time? I recently read an article in the New York Times where experts note there just isn’t enough data on reading to children from tablets to give definite professional guidelines.
For a long time, I purposely ignored e-readers. I love the feel of a book in my hand and I wanted my sons to feel the same way. My children have shelves and shelves of books and we’ve hauled home most of the titles available at our local library. Reading out loud was always a favorite pastime and many of our early conversations and jokes came from the books we were reading. I don’t even mind paying our library late fees; I feel the money is going to a good cause.
All of that said, there is a convenience to an e-reader. You can easily take 50 books on vacation or in the car. On a tablet, books can come to life (listen to that Clifford bark!) and that certainly makes reading seem fun. My husband bought me a kobo one Christmas and I love it! I downloaded 5 books for our last vacation. It worked at the beach in bright sunlight! The battery charge lasted the whole week! I patted my Kobo in its pretty red case each night before I went to sleep, happy that we became acquainted after avoiding it for so long.
But what about reading to children from that same tablet or e-reader? I’ve thought a lot about picture books on a tablet and I’ve decided it feels like passive entertainment to me. If Clifford is barking for us, then I don’t get to make the doggy sounds myself and hear my child laugh. We are less likely to discuss something if we don’t want to miss words being read to us. And, at the end of the day, I’m worried my children would be bored with regular books after reading on an iPad.
Here’s my compromise. We read to my 3 year old niece from books and save the tablets for true entertainment time. My school age sons who now read novels are allowed to use an e-reader if that’s its only function (no tablets). I’ve found that the temptation to switch over to games is too great for them on our iPad. It’s not perfect, but that’s what works for our family right now.
Does your family have technology rules? How do you feel about reading on electronic devices? Is reading good enough, no matter how it’s done?
Michelle Nelson is a marketer with 15 years experience in education and not for profits and enjoys a bit of blogging on the side. Food and parenting are her topics of choice. She works at Kids & Company and has twin boys.