At one stage eBooks were the fastest growing sector of children’s publishing. Everyone was sounding the death knell on paper books, bookstores, libraries, etc. All major publishing houses have eBooks and apps sections and all major book selling sites such as Kalahari, Amazon, Exclusives have them too. In addition to story books, the apps teaching children how to read had also increased exponentially and many parents were buying them hoping for a fast track to literacy.
Today there’s a slightly different picture. According to The Guardian, ‘while book sales through shops increased 7% in 2016, ebook sales declined by 4%. It is the second year in a row that ebook sales have fallen, and only the second time that annual ebook sales have done so since industry bodies began monitoring sales a decade ago.’ While part of the reason is the high sales of adult coloring-in books (such a lovely sentence to write!) the other reason is young people have reported preferring physical books too. Steve Bohme, research director at Nielsen Book Research UK, said young people were using books as a break from their devices or social media. “We are seeing that books are a respite, particularly for young people who are so busy digitally,” he said.
I have to admit to cheering silently on the side. Like many, I’m a fan of the physicality of books. I want to hold a book and lift it up, flip the pages back and forth and let my son and daughter hold the book to do shared reading at times. I know you can do shared reading with an eBook, but there’s something about the feel and smell of a book that I can’t seem to move away from.
When I travel it’s a different story – I’ll grab a few chapter books for the kids and load my books onto my kindle. Which I have to say is rather old fashioned with it’s colourless pages – and doesn’t compare to downloading a book onto the family iPad. What’s really bugging me about the whole eBook issue though are several reports that eBooks miss some of the vital links needed for establishing good reading skills.
Are eBooks good for children?
A recent piece in the New York Time’s Motherlode section points to a study that found that student’s reading comprehension was higher when they read conventional books. They also found that young readers ‘often skip over the text completely, rather engaging with the book’s interactive visual features.’ Children end up seeing the book, not reading it. The children’s book I once downloaded had my son focused on making the animals eat the fruit off the tree – not reading the words and at the end he didn’t seem to understand the story. I feel these interactive features – while fun – rob them of their own creativity and imagination.
This is not to say eBooks don’t have a place in education. The idea of rolling out stories far and wide to children who don’t have access to books is appealing. If one family can share a phone or an iPad and have access to books on it – which can be shared amongst others then the argument of what is more or less interactive becomes obsolete.
If you do want a trial, here’s a list of recommended e-Books from the author Annie Murphy Paul in the New York Times :
For beginning readers
“Blue Hat, Green Hat” by Sandra Boynton, “Go, Clifford, Go!” by Norman Bridwell, “Meet Biscuit” by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, “Nickelby Swift, Kitten Catastrophe” by Ben Hecht, “Miss Spider’s Tea Party” by David Kirk, “A Fine Musician” by Lucy Thomson.
For fluent readers
“Slice of Bread Goes to the Beach” by Glenn Melenhorst, “Who Would Win? Killer Whale Vs. Great White Shark” by Jerry Pallotta, “Wild About Books” by Judy Sierra, “The Artifacts” by Lynley Stace and Dan Hare.
Another resource is Oxford Owl.