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Toddlers May Gain More From Paper Books Than E-Books: Study

By Dennis Thompson, ( 

When it comes to reading to toddlers, apparently there is no substitute for an old-fashioned book.

That's according to new research that found paper books foster better parent-child interactions than electronic books do.

This held true even when comparing print books against very basic e-readers that don't contain distracting elements like sound effects or animation, noted lead researcher Dr. Tiffany Munzer. She is a fellow in developmental behavior pediatrics at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

"Parents and children also had a lower quality of interaction over even this basic electronic book without these fancier features," Munzer said. "There's something about the tablet itself. These devices do not lend themselves to a shared experience."

Parents and toddlers talked more when reading print books, and were more apt to work together to perform tasks like holding the book and turning pages, Munzer and her colleagues found.

Toddlers presented with an e-book became more focused on the tasks of tapping or swiping the screen, instead of focusing on the story being told or the parent reading to them.

Parents also became distracted with e-books, tending to talk less about the story and more about the device itself. For example, they might spend more time telling the toddler how to work the tablet and less time actually reading from it.

The findings were published online March 25 in the journal Pediatrics.

"We always thought the enhanced e-books, with all their distractions, interfered with reading," said Dr. Suzy Tomopoulos, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the NYU School of Medicine. "But it wasn't only the enhancements that made these books underperform. I think it also has to do with the fact that they are harder to share and more individual."

Previous research has shown that preschoolers and young school-age children tend to gain less from reading e-books than print books, the researchers said in background notes. The kids appear to have lower...(click here to continue reading)

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