Should Children Read From Digital Paper?

Guest Contributor: Nicholas Lester Bell from End of Line

Published on February 11, 2011

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A family friend wrote this on her tumblr page:

i am torn, because i want grace to read and i feel like she would be more inclined to read on an e-reader with a touch screen rather than on the pages of an actual book. i myself would prefer the paper book, and am a bit anti-e-reader, but in a recent debate over whether or not to let her play a video game (instead of watch tv), i think an e-reader would be my top choice over anything else. thoughts?

I wrote her a long explanation about e-reader pros and cons, various options and opportunities there are. A great deal of words were spent on this without addressing the actual direct question. This is going to be a better exploration of that issue and the greater question of ebooks. The technical information will follow in a later post.

To answer the question “should children read from e-readers?” you need to ask another question: “will an e-reader help your child read more?” Yes? Then they definitely should use it. The more a child reads, the better off they will be in all parts of life. Reading helps develop and expand the mind in a way almost nothing else will. Even the subject matter isn’t overly critical. It is better to read garbage like Twilight than nothing at all. Everyone has to start somewhere. There is always more time to graduate to better literature.

The presentation of a digital book does not really matter. Just like the paper of a physical book does not matter. With few exceptions, the physical presentation of a book is not critical to the experience. It is the medium on which content is delivered. The best analogy is music – for most of it, it does not matter if you listen on vinyl, mp3 or cd. It is all the same notes, the same words.

A story is not the pages it is written on. In fact, it is not even the words it is written with. A story is the experience of reading. A band without an audience may be making noise, but are they making music? Without the reader, the story is merely words on a page, digital or otherwise. It is the reading that gives it a life, a presence all its own.

So let your child read an ebook. Let them read a comic book. Let them read the newspaper, the encyclopedia, the back of the cereal box. Reading gives a child wings to explore not only their own world, but infinite worlds behind this one. Whatever avenue helps them best do it, let them read. The universe awaits their exploration.

[Chris: The comments in this original post are worth reading as well]

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