Research Says That Toddlers Engage More With Print Books Than eBooks

  • Toddlers

It’s certainly no secret that early reading is great for neurological development, socialisation and educational success, and a new study has confirmed what we probably already knew: that print books offer better communication and bonding opportunities for parents and their toddlers than eBooks and tablets. So, while tech-savvy parents are looking to cut back the clutter and shrink bookshelves into tablet form—it might be wise to reconsider.

The Study

Image: Mother & Baby

The study's objective was to see if parents and toddlers interacted differently while reading books in various formats. They gathered 37 parent-toddler pairs and had the parents read stories from the Little Critter series in back-to-back sessions, setting a 5-minute time limit for each.

They used a different format for each session: a print book, a basic ebook, and an enhanced ebook (one that comes with music, sound effects, and animated characters). The researchers recorded the sessions to observe the interactions between parent and toddler. These could include discussing the story, asking questions, collaborative reading, positive directions, and negative directions.

The Results

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

The results suggest that toddlers are most engaged when reading a print book—with researchers identifying that children were more verbal and collaborated more in the process of reading. And, interestingly, the same goes for parents, too—as adults engaged in more dialogue, asked more questions, and showed greater signs of bonding and sharing the experience with their child when reading a print book.

Dr Tiffany Munzer, the study's first author and a fellow in developmental-behavioral paediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told ABC News "the print book is really the gold standard in eliciting positive interactions between parents and their children…Parents know their children well and have to make it come alive for their child to create that magic."

The World Economic Forum identifies that, within the study, “such positive interactions were less frequent with ebooks. However, ebooks did show more collaboration in format-specific directions — as in, "You have to swipe it like this" or "No, don't touch that button." In other words, the device itself became an impediment to developing a natural rhythm of learning and relationship.”

Ultimately, the study shows that you don’t need the latest and greatest in technology—all you need is a willingness to engage with your child, to read with them and to talk to them, in order to support your child’s early development. Hear hear! 

Hero image: Goodstart Early Learning

Thanks to Hasbro: This article is brought to you in partnership with Hasbro Gaming, our Supporting Brand Partner for the Unplug & Play Initiative.

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