Recently there has been considerable, and sometimes heated, debate in the media regarding the relative merits of digital books and traditional (or paper) books.
So, which format is better for your child?
This question involves what educational researchers call ‘a false dichotomy’. After all, very little – in education or in life – is ‘either/or’.
Some parents are concerned that the quality of digital books is not as high as traditional books, and are avoiding using them at home. As technology continues to move forward, however, we must accept that some, if not all, books and stories our children will read later in childhood and into adulthood will be in digital form. Given this reality, it is prudent to prepare our children, by familiarising them thoroughly with digital formats. Having said this, however, we must exercise caution and good judgment in regard to the books we choose – in any format – and the ways in which we use them.
Both traditional and digital books have beneficial features that can assist the literacy development of our children, as we can see here:
Beneficial Features of Traditional Books
The main benefit of traditional books for pre-schoolers (especially babies and toddlers) is that they have tactile features that digital books do not have – such as moving parts and a variety of surfaces. Young children have a heightened tactile affinity and benefit from the stimulation of an unusual surface in a book, or opening, closing and sliding parts to add meaning to the story and generate greater interest and excitement.
The intonation and emotional interpretation a parent can put into reading a book is far superior to the pre-recorded voice of a digital book.
Beneficial Features of Digital Books
There are some fantastic features of digital books too, such as animation of pictures, sound effects and music. These features will capture the attention of infants and young children, and will add excitement to a reading experience – as long as they are carefully designed so as not to divert the easily-distracted child, thus interfering with the narrative flow and the association between the written word and the sound.
Despite its benefits, digital books come with a hidden danger too! Find out what it is on the next page…