Babies need books–but do they need e-books?

If you’re like me you have some questions about how well the brave new e-world serves our youngest users. Are e-books good or bad for kids? How does reading an e-book change the experience of reading aloud to your child? What does it mean when babies and toddlers know how to use an i-pad? (Need proof?  Check out the video below of a baby who’s frustrated by the paper magazine that doesn’t respond to her pushing and pinching.)


I don’t have any answers, unfortunately, but I do have some ideas about where to look to get information on the topic.

One good resource is the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Like the umbrella organization, the Cooney Center is focused on innovative educational techniques. If there are ways to use current and emerging technologies to aid babies and children this is definitely the site that will be explaining and promoting them.

Don’t worry, though. The Cooney Center is also willing to be critical.  A recent study, cited in an article on Education Week’s Early Years blog compares how children and parents interact with e-books, print books and enhanced e-books.

No one will be surprised to know that the results are mixed.  For early literacy purposes, print books and simple e-books (those that exactly replicate the text and illustrations of the print version) seemed to work best. When it came to stimulating interest and motivating children, however, enhanced e-books (those that offer opportunities to interact with the device and include video, sound or other features), not surprisingly, had an edge.

Another reliable resource also has a connection to PBS—and one to Western Pennsylvania as well. Ele is a new project of the Fred Rogers Company. Designed to help parents and educators of young children, birth to age five, this site presents a variety of early literacy activities and also offers forums intended to promote communication among users.

Health professionals have also weighed in on these questions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, encourages parents to strictly limit screen time for children two and younger. Not because the content, whether on television, e-reader or computer, is necessarily bad. Rather the issue is that time spent staring at a screen takes time away from interacting with another person—and that interaction has been consistently shown to be a much more effective way of learning.

Learning through conversation and communication isn’t just for kids, of course. So if you’ve found some bit (or byte) of information about this topic please share it in the comments. Screens and media are sure to remain omnipresent for the foreseeable future.  Let’s all do our best to make sure we use them wisely and well, especially with young learners and library users.


Coordinator of Children’s Collection


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Suzi Wackerbarth

    Lisa, thank you for emphasizing this critical information, that kids under two need to learn from PEOPLE. Reading is social. This is the reason Mother Goose emergent story times are so important, not just for the kids, but for the parents–sing to your kids, read to your kids, talk to your kids.

    Suzi Wackerbarth
    Northland Public Library

  2. Megan Fogt

    Thanks for sharing the research and thougths of groups like the Fred Roger’s Center and Sesame Workshop! NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) has been grappling with how to use technology as a positive and effective tool for children for quite some time. They are in the process of updating their policies and procedures and this website has a wealth of research and information on the topic:

    Suzi, I completely agree about the social aspect of learning. NAEYC talks about this as well. Using the technology to play and learn with kids as ONE tool out of MANY that can be used to teach kids how to explore and learn from their world 🙂

    Megan Fogt
    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Squirrel Hill

  3. libraryalche

    A wonderful essay, LIsa – thank you!

    Leigh Anne V.
    CLP Main

Comments are closed.