Researchers at the University of Michigan filmed 37 parents as they read stories from the Little Critter series to their 2- and 3-year-old children in three different formats: a print book, a basic electronic book, and a tablet with interactive features such as sound effects and animation.
The research shows that parents and toddlers engaged in more dialogue related to the story when they were looking at print books, compared to when the story was in digital format, according to the study published in Pediatrics. Parents also used richer language and their toddlers collaborated more – by turning pages or pointing to illustrations – when reading the print book compared to the electronic books.
In contrast, when the story was read on an e-book, the parents tended to focus more on the technology itself, for example, by telling their children to change the volume, not push buttons, or swipe to the next page. They didn't ask their toddlers as many questions about the story or make as many comments about it.
The researchers say that it appears electronic devices are more distracting to children than print books, even if the e-books don't come with special effects. They advise parents to stick with print books. But if e-books are your preference, try to engage with it in the same way you would a print book.
The study was very small, so more research is needed to determine whether print books really are superior to digital books. Also, the researchers didn't test how well the children understood the books after their parents read to them.
Reading to your child is hugely important. It helps your toddler develop early literacy skills and build vocabulary, and it stimulates the imagination. Story time is also a great way for the two of you to bond.
For some helpful ideas on choosing the best books and getting your child interested in reading, check out our tips on how to raise a reader.
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