Skip to main content
Birds-eye view of mother at home reading picture book to young child
Dr. Joanne Meier
Sound It Out
Joanne Meier

How e-book reading changes reading behavior

I feel like I barely go through a week without reading about a school or district adopting e-readers for classrooms. Even at home, e-readers are becoming commonplace. Families are spending more time reading books with e-readers, even with their very young children.

Researchers at the Erickson Institute at Temple University seeking to understand the effect of an e-reader on the amount and types of verbal interaction between child and parent found some startling patterns. From the press release (opens in a new window):

“It turned out that reading electronic books became a behaviorally oriented, slightly coercive parent-child interaction as opposed to talking about the story, relating it to the their child’s life, or even talking about the book’s pictures or text,” Parish-Morris said. “Parents were under the impression that when you are sitting down with a book, you are supposed to read it,” she added. “But what was happening with the e-books is that reading was not even part of the process, probably because these books literally read the story to the child. So parents are not needed. The book makes commands and tells the child what to do; it encourages them to play games and reads to the child, so parents are essentially replaced by this battery-operated machine.”

This is bad news for those of us who know how valuable and irreplaceable parent–child conversations are for young children. As educators, we must recognize the role of e-readers in today’s world, but also continue to advocate for traditional book reading experiences filled with language experiences as well.

Some recommendations for those with e-readers:

  • Don’t let the e-reader drive the whole reading experience. Take the time to stop the reading of the book, to talk about what’s happening and to enjoy the pictures.
  • Continue traditional book reading, and read together every day! Talk about the content and use interesting words as part of the conversation.
  • Regardless of the format, help your child make connections between the book and their own life. Engage in rich conversations and circle back around over and over again to books you both love.

There’s a workable balance between traditional and e-books out there. Let’s help our families find it!

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
January 9, 2012