Op-Ed: Are children still interested in books?

Posted Jan 5, 2015 by J.N. Paquet
With the rise of the number of children reading on tablets, especially after Christmas, many parents are wondering whether there is any harm leaving their little ones use such technology.
Another worrying topic for many is whether the most disadvantaged children in our Society will be left behind because of reading technologies.
A study recently conducted by the charity Tablets for Schools actually shows that tablets are used by 68 percent of primary and 69 percent of secondary schools in the UK, with about 9 percent of schools having a tablet for every pupil.
Another survey by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) also recently indicated that tablets may help children from disadvantaged backgrounds read.
According to Jonathan Douglas, director of the NLT, the survey “throws up very interesting evidence on the positive impact of combining technology with books on pre-school children’s vocabulary. Our research confirms that technology is playing a central role in young children’s vocabulary development. Nearly all children have access to a touch-screen device at home and as technology advances and digital skills become increasingly important, we need to harness these developments to encourage children to become avid readers, whatever format they choose.”
Some encouraging results from the survey indeed show that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds spend more time reading on devices than their wealthier peers.
More encouraging results: print books are actually more popular with three to five-year-olds than reading on devices!
Thus, print books are far from dying, i.e. as long as young children are taught to read them, play with them and find them fun to handle and use. While there is no harm reading eBooks on tablets rather than print books, parents should, however, always encourage their little ones to read print books first and be, themselves, an example they can learn from and copy.
Visiting a local library costs nothing than a bit of one's time and there is certainly no better place for connecting children with books, especially because access to books there, like so many other things (but the ticketed fireworks display in London on New Year's Eve...), is absolutely free.