While catching up with a friend of mine at the LEEP dinner this evening, talk turned to what was going on in our classes, which led to a brief chat about this blog. She then suggested I look into TumbleBooks, which bill themselves as “e-books for e-kids.” More specifically, TumbleBooks are animated, talking picture books and include a number of popular titles from major publishing companies. Subscriptions to TumbleBooks are available to public and school libraries, and kids can also gain access to the books from their homes. The targeted audience for these e-books range from pre-school aged children to later elementary aged kids. I was struck by the notion that parents would use e-readers to teach their young children to learn how to read, and sought some public (and scholarly) opinion on the matter.
As it turns out, e-readers may not be the best option for teaching young kids to read. This report on a study conducted by researchers at Temple University’s Infant Laboratory in Philadelphia and Erikson Institute in Chicago suggests that use of e-readers severely limits interaction between parents and children, to the detriment of kids’ burgeoning comprehension skills. This article from Time Magazine touches on another interesting idea: parents are less than enthusiastic about letting their kids handle their expensive tablets and e-readers, which could lead to a less than favorable experience for both parties. And lastly, this article from the New York Times provides opinions from many parents (who are frequent users of e-reading devices themselves) who prefer to read with their kids solely using print books.
The research suggests that we shouldn’t mess with tradition – kids seem to learn better when reading from print books. And despite the fact that kids learn a great deal by imitating their parents, it seems it would be best to hold off on using e-readers until they’ve acquired basic reading skills.