A new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that reading print books instead of e-books boosts parent-toddler interaction

By Hanna Flanagan
March 28, 2019 03:10 PM
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Electronic books are space efficient and relatively affordable — two things that, understandably, appeal to parents of young children.

But a new study published by the journal Pediatrics suggests that toddlers who read from a screen are less likely to interact with their parents than those who read from a traditional print book.

To reach their conclusions, researchers videotaped 37 parent-toddler duos reading for 5 minutes from different stories of the Little Critter series.

The stories were read from three different formats: electronic tablets (which featured sound effects or animation), basic electronic devices and printed books.

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Researchers then measured verbalization in intervals of 10 seconds for parents and their toddlers. According to the results, “parents and toddlers verbalized less with electronic books, and collaboration was lower.”

“Future studies should examine specific aspects of tablet-book design that support parent-child interaction,” the study continued. “Pediatricians may wish to continue promoting shared reading of print books, particularly for toddlers and younger children.”

From 2011 to 2014, Americans who read electronic books rose from 17 to 28 percent, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

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Despite the uptick in e-book usage, Dr. Tiffany Munzer — the study’s primary author and a development behavioral pediatrics fellow at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital — told ABC News that printed books are the “gold standard” of parent-child interaction.

“Our goal with some of the kinds of findings in the study is not to make things harder for parents,” she said, “but to help them focus on activities that spark interactions with their children where they feel that back-and-forth is really easy.”

“The print book is a really beautiful object in that each parent and child interacts differently over a print book,” Dr. Munzer added. “Parents know their children well and have to make it come alive for their child to create that magic.”