Could e-books actually get in the way of reading? In a study looking at students’ use of e-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, the Schugars discovered that the young readers often skipped over the text altogether, engaging instead with the books’ interactive visual features.
E books are not e-babysitters! The article cautions us to beware of distracting features that detract from engagement with the text. There is no substitute for parental and teacher guidance and support to engrain solid reading habits that enhance comprehension. What we do--and don't do matters!---Lou
"The quality of e-books for children varies wildly, the authors note: “Because the app market allows for the distribution of materials without the rigorous review process that is typical of traditional children’s book publishing, more caution is necessary for choosing high-quality texts.” They advise parents and teachers to look for e-books that enhance and extend interactions with the text, rather than those that offer only distractions; that promote interactions that are relatively brief rather than time-consuming; that provide supports for making text-based inferences or understanding difficult vocabulary; and that locate interactions on the same page as the text display, rather than on a separate screen. (E-books recommended by the authors are listed below.)
Once the e-books are selected, parents and teachers must also help children use the e-books effectively, write Smith and the Schugars. This can include familiarizing children with the basics of the device. Although adults may assume that their little “digital natives” will figure the gadgets out themselves, the researchers have found that children often do need adult guidance in operating e-readers. Parents and teachers should also assist children in transferring what they know about print reading to e-reading. Kids may not automatically apply reading skills they’ve learned on traditional books to e-books—and these skills, such as identifying the main idea and setting aside unimportant details, are especially crucial when reading e-books, because of the profusion of distractions they provide.
Lastly, adults should ensure that children are not over-using e-book features like the electronic dictionary or the “read to me” option. Young readers can often benefit from looking up the definition of a word with a click, but doing it too often will disrupt reading fluidity and therefore comprehension. Even without accessing the dictionary, children are able to glean the meaning of many words from context. Likewise, the read-to-me feature can be useful in decoding a difficult word, but when used too frequently it discourages kids from sounding out words on their own.
Research shows that children often read e-books “with minimal adult involvement,” Smith and the Schugars note. While we may assume that interactive e-books can entertain children all by themselves, it turns out that such products require more input from us than books on paper do."