Why Books are Better For Your Child than eBooks

October 5, 2016 Science of Learning11

You want your child to read more, but they’re just not that interested, when they could be watching TV or playing around on the internet instead. As an attempt to make reading more appealing, you give them an e-reader and hope it catches on. Unfortunately, science tells us that e-reading is actually less effective than reading from a traditional paper book and could actually be detrimental to your child.

Books Are Better For Retention

A book and an ebook might have the exact same content, but studies have proven that it can be more difficult to remember information when the words are on a screen than when on a page. A study that compared the two mediums saw that more repetition was required for screen readers to remember the same information that book readers were trying to learn.

The reason for the difference is simple science. When we remember something, we either know the information or we recall it from context. Knowing is preferable because it is a faster and requires less effort to process. This difference exists because of the way our brains create new memories. We often rely on context and landmarks to learn new things, which is why association is often a great studying method. You put information in the proper context and it can be recalled faster, then it will be known easier.

Books have physical reference points that we can use to put information into the proper context. Did you read a certain passage at the bottom of the page? On the top of the page? The left or right side? Knowing the context will help you remember the information. Conversely, ebooks do not always provide as many spatial landmarks, including page formatting, graphics, and page numbers. It’s harder to remember where you read a certain passage on an ebook, making the information harder to retain.

Without helpful references and landmarks, screen reading can become a much slower process because readers must constantly go back to reread a passage to insure that the information will be retained. There is also evidence that the smaller the screen you read from, the less memorable the information will be because, once again, as the field of view decreases, more context is lost.

Books Are Better For Sleeping

The benefit of books over screens doesn’t just stop at learning, it also extends into health and sleep trends. Many studies have shown that staring at luminant screens for long periods of time can contribute to visual fatigue, which involves tired, itching, and burning eyes. Exposure to artificial light can also have an adverse effect on sleeping habits.

One study proved that being exposed to a screen for more than four hours during the day was associated with a 49% higher risk of taking longer than 60 minutes to fall asleep. Another study found that using an ebook before bed decreases the production of melatonin in the body, which is essential for preparing the body for sleep.

Children are going to be exposed to harmful screens throughout the day, so they probably don’t need another one added to their day when they are trying to read. Old fashioned books are not only better for learning, they are also safer too.

Digital Still Has a Place

Despite the less than ideal conditions ebooks can create for readers, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for digital reading in a child’s education. Learning how to read on a tablet can be a more rewarding experience for children because there are programs that were built to help motivate them. Digital reading can be a much more interactive process when words can light up as children sound them out and definitions can be called up when they struggle on a word.

Digital reading is also helpful because devices cater to a child’s unique learning style. Tablets can offer visual stories, auditory assistance, and a hands-on learning environment. In a sense, ebooks have the ability to provide readers with their own personalized reading experience. For young children learning as they go, this can be a powerful resource for them. Just understand that there’s a time and a place for both digital and physical books.

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