“Come on Eva, let’s go have story time.”
I scoop up my daughter and take into her room. We settle into the big pink rocking chair and get comfortable. I tuck a pillow behind my back and pull Eva’s favorite blanket around us both. She snuggles close and I pull out my iPad.
I know. It’s 2013, I should get with the times. Don’t get me wrong, I have read many a book on a portable reading device. While in Japan, I devoured Terry Goodwin’s Sword of Truth series on my iPhone during endless commutes by train. I used to spend most of my time lugging around textbooks and teaching materials and the last thing I wanted was to carry around another book to read on the train. Having ebooks on my iPhone was a Godsend. I am all about the portability and variety eBooks afford the reader.
So why can’t I get into eReading with my daughter?
This year, Kobo launched a campaign around Mother’s Day to encourage parents to read with their kids using eReaders. The company also published some very interesting articles on their website about children’s literature. There were a lot of stats demonstrating that, while eBooks for kids is a growing market, print books are still the preferred format for most parents.
Whew! I’m glad I’m not alone. So what is it about kid’s eBooks that is lacking? For one thing, it turns out many people felt that so-called enhancements were unnecessary. Studies done by the non-profit Joan Ganz Cooney Center showed enhancements were even detrimental to reading comprehension and retention. I personally find having to click and slide and search for enhanced features on the pages is distracting and takes away from the narrative. It’s also annoying that every time my daughter inadvertently touches the screen the page shifts or changes. With a print book she can gleefully point to things on the page without a care.
Another factor that resonated with me was the fact that for many parents, the books they choose for their children are largely nostalgic. Sharing my original childhood copy of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats has been one of the best moments as a parent for me. Reading my brothers copy of The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein – complete with my brothers scribbled attempts to color the illustrations – brought back so many happy memories. As she gets older I look forward to sharing my weathered copies of the Little House on The Prairies series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Maybe the next generation of parents will delight in tapping the turn page button, or discovering the pop-up features on their old iPads or Kobos while they cuddle with their little ones during story time. I have no doubt next generation of reading devices will only continue to adapt and lend itself to the genre of children’s books. It will be interesting to continue to watch how things develop. For now, for me at least, story time with Eva requires no other enhancement than a big, beautifully illustrated book.