Q: I am the mother of a 7-year-old girl who is a voracious reader. I have been considering buying her a no-frills e-Reader that doesn’t have games, video, or other features, but just allows you to read books. We are a minimal electronic media household–we don’t own a TV, and our girls (ages 4 and 7) rarely use electronic devices such as smartphones or tablets. The convenience of an e-Reader, however, has some appeal to me. I’m wondering if there is any research on the effects of screen reading on young children. As someone who has been very deliberate about keeping our home relatively electronic media free, I am conflicted…but my book shelves are awfully crowded!
~ Anxious over e-Readers, USA
A: Dear Anxious,
To date, there is little direct research comparing reading books to reading e-Readers, but in basic ones that don’t have lit screens, the technology itself is remarkably similar to reading words on a printed page. (Research shows ones that do have lit screens, though, can contribute to the same kinds of sleep problems as TVs and computers.)
When e-Readers were first introduced to the public, I resisted the idea because I love the look, feel, and overall experience of reading paper books. However, once I started using an e-Reader, I quickly learned to appreciate it as a flexible and convenient tool for storing a large number of books in an easy-to-read, portable format. My 8-year-old son loves the e-Reader, too.
One lesson he helped me learn, though, is how easy it is to buy books on it. After finishing one book, he was so excited to continue reading that he ordered the rest of the series–placing a $60 order using the e-Reader store application. I was able to cancel the order, but now I only enable the store account when I am using it. That way, my kids can’t run up large bills or buy books that I don’t think they’re ready for.
If you do decide to buy your daughter an e-Reader: 1) Follow the instincts you already have and buy a basic one with an unlit screen and 2) Establish from the beginning how you will purchase books for it together, that way you can control both what she is exposed to and your wallet–and you can model critical thinking in book choice as well. Then load it up with a book or two you think she’ll enjoy, and get reading! For more ideas on encouraging young readers, see these posts:
- Where can I find books for young advanced readers?
- How can I tell if an e-book is appropriate for my 10-year-old?
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,