We are big-time believers in the benefit (and bliss) of reading with kids; of sitting down together and reading a story. It builds vocabulary, reading readiness, and thinking skills–and helps develop that sense of closeness with our kids we all enjoy.
Building brains with stories
A recent New York Times article, Bedtime Stories for Young Brains, quotes Dr. John Hutton of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center as saying that reading to kids has “a very important role to play in building the brain.” We know from other research that simply hearing words read aloud from a book helps foster imagination and–especially in a cozy context like cuddling up with their parents–activates parts of kids’ brains that simply watching a TV show or movie do not.
But the New York Times article also contrasted bedtime stories to “screen time”–lumping TV-watching and e-book-reading together because they both involve screens. And that plays to a kind of prejudice or privilege by which people seem to believe that reading an e-book or an app can’t be as good as reading a printed book.
There are 1.2 billion people in the world without electricity. For them, that printed-paper bedtime story is tough to arrange (reading by firelight–difficult; reading by kerosene lamps–poisonous). Yet smartphones and tablets and phablets are bringing apps and ebooks to places that don’t have electricity or bookstores or libraries. Seen in this light (ha ha) an insistence on print over e-books seems prejudiced and last-century. Does anyone really think that kids in rural areas can’t have fun reading with adults if they aren’t reading an ink-and-paper book?
We’ve heard people complaining about the “cold, impersonal technological future”–but the future will only be that way if we make it that way. Our culture and our future, to paraphrase Mos Def, is not “some giant living on the hillside”– our culture is us; it will be what we make it.
Why can’t reading from a screen be as good as reading a printed book?
Another article talks about a program called Tech Goes Home that’s trying to help close the “digital divide” (the gap between people with access to technology and those without). It encourages kids and parents to read together–on tablets with apps and e-books. As the kids explore the e-books and apps, their parents ask questions like, “What are we about to do? What other words start with that sound? How did you even out the seesaw? What words do you think we’ll see when we click this letter H? and What should we try next?”
Isn’t it possible that this kind of interaction–or simply reading aloud– can reap all the same benefits as a bedtime story from a printed book, with perhaps the added bonus of fostering computer familiarity?
Curling up together, reading a story–in any medium, with or without technology–is a wonderful thing; let’s not put limits on it.
Share and connect–help build a Bliss community
How do you engage with your kids when using technology? Please share your ideas.