Reading printed books to toddlers is better than e-books

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When it comes to reading to young children, snuggling together around a good old-fashioned book is always better than story time on a tablet, new research suggests.

The researchers looked at the interactions between 72 parents and their toddlers aged 24 to 36 months and compared the interactions when reading tablet apps versus traditional children’s books.

Parents spoke more to their children – children in turn responded to them more –by reading the printed version, according to study in Pediatrics. Children who are more prone to emotional outbursts also reacted better to their parents when reading a book.

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Parent-child interactions through shared reading promote language development and literacy and may also benefit friendships, academic success, and other developmental outcomes of the child later in life. “Said the lead author. Tiffany Munzer, MD, a behavioral development pediatrician at the CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Health.

New study supports Munzer previous discoveries indicating that when parents and children read print books, they speak more frequently and the quality of their interactions is better than when they read e-books.

Ninety-eight percent of families with children under the age of nine own a cell phone or tablet, and toddlers spend an average of more than two hours a day using digital media.

“Tablets and mobile devices are important parts of modern family life, but they are not as educational or valuable for children’s development as traditional books,” Munzer said.

She said software designers creating electronic reading materials for children should seek the advice of trained early childhood specialists to provide content for children and eliminate distractions like animation and advertisements.

Child caregivers should also help guide parents on the use of media.

“Pediatricians should continue to recommend that parents co-view digital media with their children when possible, ask open-ended questions and speak during reading time to help their children engage and learn,” Munzer said.

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Other authors include Jenny Radesky, MD, Alison L. Miller, Ph.D., Samantha Yeo, BA, Yujie Wang, MS, Harlan McCaffery, MS, and Niko Kaciroti, Ph.D., all from the University of Michigan .

Study cited: “Parents ‘verbalizations and toddlers’ responses with nursery rhyme apps for touch pads” Pediatrics, DO I: 10.1542 / peds.2021-049964


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