Occasionally, we do bedtime stories on the computer. There are nice e-books online through the International Digital Children’s Library (in fact, it’s the only place I’ve found بكار books), and—now and again—I let the boys look through the books on the عالم سمسم website. And, when the seven-year-old was first learning to read, I found Starfall.Com a useful English-language resource.
I never feel really great about it. It’s not really the same as sitting down around a paper book—and definitely not at all like having the whole family gathered around a book. But, now that e-books are a clear reality (and coming soon in Arabic), I’ve started to wonder: What’s the impact of e-books on children’s developing brains?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no “screen time” for children under two, and limited “screen time” (that goes both for computers and TVs) for children 2+. Do e-books constitute screen time?
Is there any reason at all to stick with paper books?
I wasn’t able to find any studies about literacy with paper vs. literacy with e-books. Certainly, for the youngest readers, there’s something wonderful about paper or cardboard books. (You can’t shove an e-book into your mouth!)
And on the website Teleread, author Joanna argues that—while e-books are a fabulous tool for older students—“anyone who thinks they will replace paper for little kids has obviously not spent much time in a primary school!”
She argues that children need to turn pages, point to letters. They need to touch things; they need to feel the book-object in their hands. I agree with all this, but I wonder how much of it is my inborn resistance to change and how much is a reasonable assessment of how e-books will and won’t help my children learn.