Paper Books Might Be Better For Your Toddler Than An E-Book

I would love to tell you that I always found bedtime stories an absolute joy. That I couldn't wait to get my sweet boys tucked into bed so we could all dive into a fantasy world together. This was sometimes true for me and sometimes not. Sometimes I was tired. Sometimes I still had so many things to get done before I went to bed that I wanted a way out. An e-book, for instance, that might do some of the heavy lifting for me. But, apparently, a new study found that paper books may be better for toddlers than e-books, and now I'm totally patting myself on the back forever.

It's probably safe to say that most parents are well aware of the massive benefits of reading to your child at a young age. As Kids Health noted, reading to your toddler promotes emerging literary skills, fosters a larger vocabulary, and eventually aids them with social and educational skills down the road. But it seems that not all reading material is created equal. In fact, researchers from the University of Michigan found that parents who were using e-books and iPads focused more on the technology than the story they were reading, as per the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Lead researcher Dr. Tiffany Munzer, a fellow in behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan, worked with a team of scientists to study 37 pairs of parents and toddlers. The groups were closely watched as they read together with three different mediums; paper books, basic e-books on tablets without enhancement, and more advanced e-books on tablets with sound effects and animation, as per The New York Times. These interactions were video taped and studied to decipher the quality of interaction between parents and their toddlers for each medium: The type of back-and-forth conversation going on between them, how much collaborative reading was happening, etc.

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Parents who read the print books appeared to have more of a dialogue with their child about the story, while parents reading from a tablet ended up spending more time reminding their child not to touch the electronics. Toddlers also tended to be more easily distracted by both kinds of e-books, as Dr. Munzer told The New York Times:

They were susceptible, but the basic electronic book without the enhancements was also distracting to toddlers, and they had less engagement with their parents than with print books.
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Dr. Munzer went on to explain to ABC News that print books appear to be the "gold standard" when reading to kids, despite technological advancements:

The print book is really the gold standard in eliciting positive interactions between parents and their children. Our goal with some of the kinds of findings in the study is not to make things harder for parents, but to help them focus on activities that spark interactions with their children where they feel that back-and-forth is really easy.

The researcher also pointed out that reading print books encourages parents to get creative as a storyteller, which in turn helps kids become more engaged in the story.

So sure, story time isn't always filled with magic and fairy dust. But it makes a big difference at the end of the day. And those days when you're reading to your toddler and you're both present and suddenly you just get it... that really is magic.