Learning to read in a digital world

With my feet planted firmly in Generation Y, I’m your typical Millenial.

I took Fruit Roll-Ups to school with my lunch, played pogs with my friends at recess, and listened to Michael Jackson on the radio during his Lisa Marie Presley days.

I also grew up with technology–I played Duck Hunt on our Nintendo console and played Kirby’s Dream Land on the Game Boy in the car in elementary school. In seventh grade, I’d come home from school and immediately log on to AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) to chat with my friends. By the time I was in college, I was regularly doing research and assignments online. Nowadays, I check my e-mail on my smartphone as soon as I wake up in the morning. I find out about breaking news by checking what’s trending on Facebook.

The incorporation of technology into my daily life was gradual, but it was novel, and thus welcomed. Learning and exploring new technologies was exciting.

As a parent, it’s been a natural progression to incorporate technology in my five-year-old’s learning and recreation. My husband and I encourage him to explore and learn through technology, and he routinely uses his iPod Touch, an Nvidia Shield tablet, and my MacBook Pro to play educational games, non-educational games, and learn to read.

Instagram @candaceromano

Aiden doing some iPad product testing at the Apple Store following the iPhone 5s/5c launch in September 2013.

We’ve seen firsthand the benefits of integrating this digital component into his learning. E-books often have sound effects which keep him engaged in what’s happening in the book. Interactive features, such as being able to press a word and hear the pronunciation, allow him control over his learning. Sometimes, though, these extra features can derail his learning experience and affect his attention span. Being the five-year-old boy that he is, he will sometimes press buttons to hear sounds over and over again and will get caught up in the silliness of it all instead of listening to the story. Tina Barseghian addresses this in her article, “For Young Readers, Print or Digital Books?”:

“Parents and teachers should choose basic e-books like the Kindle or Nook over enhanced e-books, such as the iPad, if they want a more literacy-focused co-reading experience with children.”

While as parents we recognize that technology can be a powerful tool with many capabilities, it’s been a balancing act to keep Aiden focused and engaged in learning in various ways, including traditional methods. We set time limits on non-educational games, and struggle with providing constant parent interaction in tandem with his learning.

We’ve learned this interaction is a crucial part of our son’s learning, and something that cannot be replaced with any amount of technology.This has been especially true as we’ve been teaching him how to read at home. There is no reading software or program that can replace us as we teach him how to make a “th” sound with his tongue against his front teeth, or commend him as he reads Green Eggs and Ham. We read to Aiden aloud every night before bed, and he seems to really enjoy and look forward to this time. He’s always given a choice of books to read, and while he has ebooks available to him, he will typically pick a print book from the bookcase in his room.

Enjoying a good book with Daddy.

Enjoying “Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin” by Lloyd Moss with Daddy. Aiden highly recommends this book for music lovers and enthusiasts alike.

His preference aligns with Scholastic’s annual survey Kids and Family Reading Reportreleased earlier this month. The results from the survey indicated that both children and parents alike show a preference for print books, compared to two years ago. In addition, children indicated that they wished their parents read to them aloud at home, even after reaching school age.

The results of a survey by the Pew Research Center, illustrated below, supports this preference for print books, with 81 percent of parents indicating it is “very important” to have their child read print books.

Parents say reading print books is very important for their children

I agree with this notion, and encourage Aiden to read print books at home. Maybe it’s the childhood nostalgia of reading books at night with my mom, the distinct smell of old books at the library, or the tactile sensation of thumbing through a good book. Either way, I’d like for him to explore both, and allow him to guide his own learning experiences. In the end, I hope he enjoys reading as a lifetime activity, regardless of whether he does so with a print book or an e-book.

Maybe one of these days I can teach him how to play pogs, too.

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2 thoughts on “Learning to read in a digital world

  1. It sounds like you’re raising your son right. Having respect for both print and ebooks, as well as spending time with him and teaching him how to read are great things all parents should do. I hope I can be as good of a parent when it’s my turn. Nice post!

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