Study reveals why you should read to your child from a book not a tablet

When it comes to parent-child interaction, nothing beats a traditional story book

A young girl reading a book.
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Parents who read to their children from a tablet or e-reader are missing out on valuable interactions, a new study has found.

Research published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children who read stories from a screen were less likely to interact with their parents, affecting their concentration and information retention.

The study filmed 37 parents as they ready to their children. Each pair read three stories – one from a traditional book, one basic e-book, and one final e-book featuring sound effects and animations.

The three stories were from the Little Critter series, and each parent read their three stories in a different order. Researchers recorded the number of times the parent and child spoke and interacted throughout the story, finding that those reading from e-books – even the non-animated ones – spoke and collaborated less.

“The tablet itself made it harder for parents and children to engage in the rich back-and-forth turn-taking that was happening in print books,” said Dr. Tiffany Munzer, who led the study.

While the study does not explore the reasons for this, Dr. Munzer suggests that tablets are usually used at home as a personal device. “Future studies should examine specific aspects of tablet-book design that support parent-child interaction,” the study added. “Pediatricians may wish to continue promoting shared reading of print books, particularly for toddlers and younger children.”

The study held reading from story book as the “gold standard” for children, adding that it helped create the “magic” of story-telling.

“Our goal with some of the kinds of findings in the study is not to make things harder for parents,” she said, “but to help them focus on activities that spark interactions with their children where they feel that back-and-forth is really easy.

“The print book is a really beautiful object in that each parent and child interacts differently over a print book,” Dr. Munzer added. “Parents know their children well and have to make it come alive for their child to create that magic.”