Interesting how people who accept change for themselves cling to nostalgie for their kids.
This is the case even with parents who themselves are die-hard downloaders of books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. They freely acknowledge their digital double standard, saying they want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals.
Parents also say they like cuddling up with their child and a book, and fear that a shiny gadget might get all the attention. Also, if little Joey is going to spit up, a book may be easier to clean than a tablet computer.
“It’s intimacy, the intimacy of reading and touching the world. It’s the wonderment of her reaching for a page with me,” said Leslie Van Every, 41, a loyal Kindle user in San Francisco whose husband, Eric, reads on his iPhone. But for their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Georgia, dead-tree books, stacked and strewn around the house, are the lone option.
“She reads only print books,” Ms. Van Every said, adding with a laugh that she works for a digital company, CBS Interactive. “Oh, the shame.”
What about the aesthetic experience of reading a children’s book?
And here is a question for a digital-era debate: is anything lost by taking a picture book and converting it to an e-book? Junko Yokota, a professor and director of the Center for Teaching Through Children’s Books at National Louis University in Chicago, thinks the answer is yes, because the shape and size of the book are often part of the reading experience. Wider pages might be used to convey broad landscapes, or a taller format might be chosen for stories about skyscrapers.
Size and shape “become part of the emotional experience, the intellectual experience. There’s a lot you can’t standardize and stick into an electronic format,” said Ms. Yokota, who has lectured on how to decide when a child’s book is best suited for digital or print format.
Publishers say they are gradually increasing the number of print picture books that they are converting to digital format, even though it is time-consuming and expensive, and developers have been busy creating interactive children’s book apps.
“Somehow, I think it’s different,” she said. “When you read a book, a proper kid’s book, it engages all the senses. It’s teaching them to turn the page properly. You get the smell of paper, the touch.”
There are many software programs that profess to help children learn to read by, for example, saying aloud a highlighted word or picture. Not all parents buy in; Matthew Thomson, 38, an executive at Klout, a social media site, has tried such software for Finn, his 5-year-old. But he believes his son will learn to read faster from print. Plus the bells and whistles of an iPad become a distraction.
“When we go to bed and he knows it’s reading time, he says, ‘Let’s play Angry Birds a little bit,’ ” Mr. Thomson said. “If he’s going to pick up the iPad, he’s not going to read, he’s going to want to play a game. So reading concentration goes out the window.”