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  • Nicole Shields

The Great 'Traditional Books Versus Electronic Books' Debate!

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Now that our children are back in school, whether it is remote, hybrid models, or in person, many schools are not allowing children to read from physical books while in the building. Instead, in-school reading has been replaced by books brought in from home or e-books.


As with any children’s literature, the research suggests that reading high-quality books, whether print or electronic, is what really matters.


One study found that some of the poorer quality electronic book offerings had distracting features, such as animations and sounds, which detracted from the story.


Schools have used electronic books as a component of reading before the pandemic. One benefit of an e-book is that emergent readers can listen to the story being read to them, receive help with vocabulary and unknown words, and see the print highlighted as the story is read. Listening to a story while reading can also support students who struggle with fluency and prosody.


During asynchronous learning, teachers can easily monitor, through e-reader programs, the amount of time a student spends reading as well as the types of texts he or she gravitates to. It provides accurate data that teachers are not typically privy to outside of school.


Digital literacy can be very engaging and enticing, particularly with the allure of vivid pictures, a seemingly unlimited library of book choices, point systems, and animated features. However, it should not replace traditional texts (books in hand), but rather complement it.


A physical book requires cognitive demands to support decoding and comprehension. It’s important for children to have the experience of reading a tangible book, without the bells and whistles, so to speak. For instance, reading a book without the support of clicking an unknown word, gives students an


opportunity to figure out the meaning of new vocabulary based on the context. It forces active thinking, which inevitably promotes recall and a deeper understanding than simply being told something.


There’s also the debate around screen time, but we can save that for another day.


So, if your child is in a school setting where he or she won’t be using the physical books in the classroom, try to make sure that there is a balance of digital literacy (e-books) and old-fashioned books that can held in hand.


You can find the full research study here.


Until next time,


Nicole Shields



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