I’m a grandparent of the smartest and most beautiful 2-year-old who has ever lived. Her name is Bella. Of course, I have the right to brag – all grandparents do. It’s what a grandparent is supposed to do. It’s in the manual.
There are other things we of that age get to do, too, when spending time with our grandkids: swing in the park, eat drippy ice cream cones and, of course, read with them. I love sitting down on a couch, reading stories, pointing to pictures, naming things, all that stuff.
Which got me thinking about e-books. Are they the same? Will they stimulate your child to learn just like the paper copy? New research seems to say yes for some, no for others.
Reading to your child gets him or her to imagine. The key here is the interaction between you and your child.
Maybe you’ve heard of the video programs that supposedly teach your child to think. Plop your kid in front of the tube while you go and Facebook your friends. Your child is learning, right?
Nope. It’s been proven beyond a doubt that these videos are worthless pieces of junk when it comes to real learning. If you bought one thinking it would make your child smarter, then think again. Toss it.
Yes, there is a place for TV shows such as “Sesame Street,” but only as an additional learning opportunity. Without parental interaction, the screen is the screen. Reading makes you smarter, plain and simple.
So what about e-books? They have bells and whistles, animation that toddlers like, stuff that grabs their attention. Given the fact that 2-year-olds already know how to swipe and touch on tablets, shouldn’t we consider whether e-books might be a good addition to our educational arsenal? Perhaps, just perhaps, if done right they can be another way to teach your child.
That’s where this most interesting study from the Language and Learning Lab at the University of Toronto comes in. It showed that e-books might be better than we thought.
The study took kids ranging in age from 17 to 26 months and randomly assigned them to read books – either in the regular print format or the electronic format. Each book contained exactly the same written material, but the e-books had those bells and whistles: background animation, sound effects, music and some voice-overs.
When they tested the kids – to see if they had learned the names of animals they had not named before, such as crocodiles and zebras – they found that both print books and e-books worked the same. The kids could identify animals in the book regardless of which format they had read. E-books seemed to grab their attention more but there was a risk involved – sometimes it reduced interaction because it grabbed the parents’ attention too.
When it comes to technology, there are always good and bad sides to it. Having a cell phone in hand to answer calls when I need it is handy, but too many calls are disturbing. I find texting very useful as well, but too much texting can be distracting.
My spin: The key is interaction. E-books are OK if you point to things and talk to your child while reading. If you engage them, they learn. If you plop your child in a chair with an e-book as a babysitter, forget it. They’ll never be an Einstein. Stay well.