Growing Up with E-Books

Strategic Design for Digital & Print

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Growing Up with E-Books

Pie charts showing results of survey


In our last post, we looked at a recent study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center that found that children prefer e-books to print books, and that enhanced e-books may hinder reading comprehension. This got us wondering: How do kids really feel about reading books on tablets and e-readers? Li’l Robin conducted our own informal, highly unscientific survey of students in a mixed class of second and third graders at a public school in New York’s West Village. (Full disclosure: Our own little robin is enrolled in the class.)

Today’s kids are growing up reading in a period of remarkable transition. They have parents who still like to read to them from printed books; at the same time, children are now accustomed to interacting with screens, and reading a book from an electronic device is not a novelty.

When we were children we formed special relationships with our favorite books as physical objects, connecting with words and images that could be revisited again and again on well-worn pages. (Our personal favorites were dog-eared copies of Momo and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.) Are today’s kids similarly attached to their e-readers?

In our informal survey of 24 kids, 19 have an e-reader. Granted, this sampling was taken in the hyper-literate neighborhood of the West Village, but with their affordability and ease of use, e-readers are quickly becoming commonplace everywhere. Interestingly, of the 19 children in our survey who have e-readers, 13 said they preferred reading printed books, and 15 said they read their favorite book of the year as a printed book.

Why do you like reading a printed book?

Why the kids prefer printed books

As appealing as a tablet or e-reader is, children still like printed books. For many kids, books are one of the first items of personal ownership, and they feel a connection to the book as a physical object.

Why do you like reading on an e-reader?

Why the kids prefer eReaders

Like adult readers, kids appreciate e-readers for their convenience and mobility, as well as customizable features that allow for easier reading. Enhanced e-books, the subject of a recent Joan Ganz Cooney Center study, have their pluses, too, according to our students, including interactivity that can aid in reading comprehension.

What do you like most about reading?

Why the kids like reading

Regardless of the medium—book or e-book—reading helps kids access their imaginations, gives them a sense of accomplishment, and turns them on to learning.

What was your favorite book this year?

Favorite books of the year

From classics like Charlotte’s Web and James and the Giant Peach to popular new series like Harry Potter, The Penderwicks and Amber Brown, kids love reading, no matter the format. In the words of one young reader: “You can’t stop.”

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