If you’re a parent with children at home, chances are you’re pretty comfortable with technology and have read your share of ebooks. But chances are, you’re also pretty adamant about reading print books to your children as well.
A recent Pew Research study found that not just most parents, but most adults, favor printed books over ebooks for reading with children. 91% of us think it’s important to read print books with our kids. And while studies have indicated that when parents read ebooks with children, engagement is lower than with print books, I suspect parents have their own reasons for valuing paper and ink, even in an age of bits and bytes.
When I worked at Google, there was a mantra everyone followed, “listen to the user and all else will follow.” In the case of print books, I think there’s simply a user experience, aka parent experience, that is unique to print books. We have tons of apps on our tablets for digital books and kid-friendly reading apps, and we use them! But the joy of snuggling up with my kiddos to turn the pages, point to the images, flip back if we want to revisit something…that just isn’t the same with a device. And I guess there’s something nice about my son saying, “Can we read this with breakfast?” and pulling out “Z is for Moose,” so that I read it to him, and make sure he isn’t distracted by anything…well, anything except his little sister! Like a lot of parents, when it comes to reading with my kids, I embrace digital, but at my core, I prefer the tactile experience of a print book over the digital experience of an ebook—turning pages, pointing to things, touching illustrations and feeling different textures. It’s the user experience.
I’m a parent-entrepreneur, which means that the work day sort of never ends! I try hard to be present with my kids during the time we have together in the evenings, not to constantly be checking my phone for new emails. So, I wasn’t surprised when Pew pointed out that lots of parents worry about kids seeing them reading solely from devices. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents in bed, reading their own books. I distinctly remember my mom reading this super long book and being amazed by her reading it little by little. Will my kids think I am checking my email if they see me on my tablet reading? Maybe, or maybe that’s just a future shift. In any case, I worry about it, so I try to make sure that I model print book reading for them every day in some way, even if it means picking up the newspaper. Yes, we still get the old school newspaper!
At Zoobean, we’re fans of reading books, whatever the format. But even in a digital age, we prefer the joy, learning and closeness conveyed in the ritual of reading a print book to our children, and we hope that our site inspires that experience for other families and loved ones, too.