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Electronic reading devices for kids: Should your child learn to read on them?

If you have an electronic reading device at home — whether it’s a Kindle, Nook or iPad — it’s likely that your kids snag it from time-to-time to read their own ebooks.  

But, is it okay for their new reader brains to spend time hooked in to read, rather than on “old-fashioned” paper books? Here’s a look at the potential pros and cons of children reading on e-readers.

What the research is saying

Or, lack of research, as the case may be. With the use of electronic reading devices still on the rise (Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos will only cite that “millions of people now own Kindles.”), more and more families and children are switching to using Kindles, Nooks, iPads and even their smart phones as their primary reading method, but the research about the impact of this trend on children who are learning to read is still in the newborn stages.


The research that is out there is across the board. A small, recent study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center showed that comprehension for children reading on electronic devices verses reading traditional books was the same. However, what the study did definitively prove was that the kids certainly had a preference for reading in an electronic format — no surprise there.

Some studies are beginning to show that children, and particularly those with learning disabilities and ADHD, are more engaged when reading via e-readers, therefore allowing them to improve their language skills and even their grades.

Dr. Frank Barnhill, author of Mistaken for ADHD, says he treats hundreds of patients with various forms of learning disabilities, many who have found success using electronic reading devices to improve their reading skills.

He believes that the proof is especially apparent in teenagers, who have grown up in a world where getting information via text, email or even Facebook, is status quo.

What parents are saying

Parents, on the other hand, aren’t as convinced, even those who prefer to read on a Kindle or their iPad themselves. According to this article by the New York Times, parents are fine with holding a double standard when it comes to the way books are read in their home. Parents don’t want to let go of the nostalgia of having their children flip through the paper pages of real life books, even citing excuses such as worrying about their baby spitting up on an electronic reading device while enjoying bedtime stories.


The verdict

Unfortunately, this early in the life of e-readers, the research is still inconclusive. As the number of children reading electronic books grows, as does the number of schools who are putting these devices to work in the classrooms, we will be able to narrow down the exact implications of their advantages and disadvantages.

Considering that every child and their reading skills are so different, and it’s hard to put a blanket statement on how much time should be spent with a Kindle, iPad or Nook in hand. If your child is doing the majority of their reading via e-reader, pay close attention to any changes in their language skills and comprehension abilities — and, touch base with their teacher to see how they feel about the use of electronic reading devices.

More on children reading

6 Tips to help your child with reading
How to help your soon-to-be first grader read this summer
Real Moms Guide: Learning to read

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