Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Traditional or electronic kids' books. Which are best?

On Friday night I went with J to his work Christmas party. After swapping secret santa presents, embarrassing ourselves with band hero and testing out a few crantinis, he and his colleagues were presented with their Christmas gifts, ipads.

Admittedly, I was a bit aloof about the ipad. I was all, oh great, yay, looks nice, mm hmm, okay - with a slight eye roll. All the while wondering what the enormous deal was, as whoops and gasps filled the room. It seemed to me just like a larger version of the iphone. 

I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

The ipad is all kinds of unimaginable awesomeness. I keep trying to steal it away to have a go myself, but it's pretty hard to steal when the thing is physically attached to the person you're trying to steal from. Ever since we've acquired the ipad, communication in our house has been disrupted. In order to get my husband's attention, I have to raise the decibel level of my voice, wave frantically, or tug at his sleeve.

We've had some of those "...so, I saw a pink elephant flying over the house earlier..." conversations too.

I can't blame him though. And the truth is, I'm jealous.

There are applications for everything: online newspapers, magazines, stores, recipes, TV guides and games. The screen is the perfect size to watch movies, read the entire front spread of an online newspaper, or look at a whole bunch of photographs at once.

Did I mention, it's awesome?

Some of the best applications I've seen so far are the children's stories. As well as being beautifully illustrated and narrated, the stories are interactive: in one you can shake a tree and see apples fall to the ground, or touch jingle bells to hear each individual jingle or touch a clown to help him cast toys around the room. If you tip the ipad one way or the other all the characters and objects fall as though gravity existed in this small, intelligent computer.

Of course, our kids are completely captivated by the interactive stories. They can participate in the adventures and have an actual impact on the way the tale unfolds. 

It's a completely new concept to me - reading books like this, online, on a screen, with bits of the story moving a wobbling in an all-too realistic way. And I can't help but wonder if this will be the future of reading?

I hope not. I never got into the Kindle. I don't advocate those electronic kids' toys that teach reading and writing and spelling.I've never bought a leap frog pad thing, or downloaded an application from the Internet.

When it comes to learning to read and write, I'm firmly old school. I want my kids to learn the way I learned: with a pencil and a piece of paper and years of practice, and some good old fashioned paper books printed with real ink.

Like I said, I never got into the Kindle. I still prefer to hold a real book in my hands and turn the pages with my fingers, I like to see the print of the ink on paper. I still prefer to read my news on a broadsheet which, I know, is not the most environmentally friendly option, but that's the way I like it.

Having said all this, when I look at these ipad stories, with their interactive stories and their characters that come to life, I wonder how traditional books will be able compete. My generation is already Internet-obsessed, and I can only imagine the next generations will be more so.

Are we going to see a decline (or worse, an end) to the printed book?

How do you feel about your kids reading books on a screen as opposed to in printed format? Do you encourage it or hope they'll stick to the old fashioned way?

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Sparkless said...

I have a Kobo and I like it but you can't share your books or pass them on. Plus I still think books are more environmentally friendly than an ereader.

You need to use a battery for the ereader and when they break after a few years you toss them out. A book can be kept for years and years and passed around. Once it's no good it is easy to recycle. Trees will regrow but ereaders are e-waste and pollute both through the making of them and when they are no longer useful.

So I still like real books better because they are more environmentally friendly.

ModernMom said...

I have been refusing to let an iPad into the house. Fighting that and laptops for the kids. Now you have me re-thinking it? I wonder if I shouldn't bolt out to BestBuy, pick on up and be the hero of the family. Oh and perhaps...cough...enjoy it myself?

..... Carmen said...

I'm firmly in the old school camp and belive Grace is too. She likes to play with the paper in her hand as she "reads" and waits to flip the page. There is something so wonderful about turning the page of an actual book. I don't think they teach cursive writing in school though anymore - I am committed to teaching my kids how to do so at home. I think there are some skills that just shouldn't be forgotten.

James (SeattleDad) said...

Sometimes I worry a bit that all the physical books that we are reading Lukas won't compare to all the apps other kids are getting to interact with on iphones or ipads. But then again, he seems to be as bright as any of them so I guess that he isn't missing too much.

Good post.

WhisperingWriter said...

I prefer the traditional books. Then again, those books can get ripped :/

Lady Mama said...

Sparkless - Good point, books are more environmentally friendly, especially they can be passed on and on after their finished with.

ModernMom - Well, the ipad is amazing, and for me it's impossible to keep these electronic gadgets out of our house, but I'm determined there will still be some balance between electronic and traditional media.

Carmen - really? They don't teach cursive writing any more? Too bad.

SeattleDad - your son may reach the age where he asks you for an electronic reading device, but I agree it's better to start off with proper books and then later if he chooses to do electronic as well, then he has both.

WhisperingWriter - True, especially when they're little and the books have flaps!

Mwa said...

iPads for Christmas? What an amazing employer!

I am all pro paper books and writing with pens, and then also some time on the computer so they can do all of it. Balance and moderation, that's me. Except when it comes to food or alcohol.

Angela said...

LOVE our iPad!!!! I am amazed how adept at using it my 8 YO was as soon as he picked it up.

It's a new world, one where are our kids will grow up wired and tech-savvy, so much more than us. My son still uses pencil and paper to write, and he still brings home books from his school library. Yet he reads on the iPad, on my Kindle AND from his hard-copy book. For his reading, he flips between all the technologies and all the old school as if it's the most natural thing in the world, and I like it that way.

Like Mwa said, everything in moderation. I'm not at all worried he won't appreciate books. There's still plenty of room for imagination and wonder in his developing mind.

Angela said...

On a side note, I wanted to read my daughter "The Velveteen Rabbit." I work full time, so on the weekend, off we went to the local library to get a copy. They didn't have it. So I sent her to school on Monday, told her to ask her librarian for it on Tuesday (their library day). Tuesday night, I found out the school library didn't have it.

So, I went online, found our two local Chapters bookstores - oh, surprise, none in stock. But I could order it and wait a few weeks.

So, I decided "forget that" and downloaded it to my Kindle. Read it to her the very next night. Now, a hard copy of that book would have taken me (apparently) weeks to get my hands on, but with the technology, we were able to cuddle and read it when we wanted to read it.

So, I see great uses/opportunities for e-readers, iPads and the like. If she still wants a hard copy, I can get her one - she'll just have to wait a few weeks to get it.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I love my childhood books - and I can't imagine that seeing the pictures on a screen would be as good. I find this with magazines. As much as I enjoy design and fashion sites, the pictures never look as good as they do on a glossy page.

And babies can't operate ipads - so board books will have to stick around - right?

I'm thinking that by chapter book reading age, kids of the present and future will start switching to more electronic versions - but the picture books may keep their print preference.

Either way - I turn pages, myself.