Parents Prefer Reading Print Books With Their Children, Survey Says

Parents still prefer print.

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

Parents prefer reading print books with their children over digital options and they believe that their children prefer being read to in print, too, according to a recent survey.

A new survey from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, a New York-based non-profit dedicated to studying and promoting children’s reading, asked 1,200 parents who read with their children on what platform they preferred doing so and what platform they thought their children preferred. A majority answered “print” to both questions.

The second finding contradicts other Joan Ganz Cooney studies, released today, that suggest children prefer e-books to print books. Children and parents not being on the same page; imagine that. (Which do you prefer for reading to your kids? Leave your answer in the poll below.)

Researchers at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center will be publishing a complete report on the survey by the end of the summer, but Digital Book World has learned of some of the preliminary results. The researchers would not specify what percentage of parents chose print over other mediums, like e-readers or tablet computers. They would also not yet share any other findings from the survey, which was conducted on Survey Monkey in the early part of 2012.

“We were interested in questions raised by parents around digital reading,” said Lori Takeuchi, director of research at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. “The name of the survey was ‘reading books with your child’ so any parents who read books with their kids could take the survey.”

The Center’s interest in the topic stemmed in part from a November New York Times report that suggested parents don’t like reading to their kids digitally because of negative perceptions around screen time for children.

The Times article also spurred Digital Book World to launch an investigation into the topic, resulting in a January report, For Reading and learning, Kids Prefer E-Books to Print Books, in which the preliminary results of Joan Ganz Cooney Center research was revealed on digital reading comprehension and retention in children.

The final results of that study were released today (see charts below).

According to the study conducted in July 2011 and January 2012 among 32 pairs of parents and their three-to-six-year-olds, reading comprehension and reader engagement for children between print books and e-books was similar. However, between print books and enhanced e-books, it was a different story.

While children engaged more actively with enhanced e-books versus print books, their reading comprehension went down. The study found that when enhanced e-books featured interactivity that wasn’t directly tied to the narrative or the text, it distracted both the children and parents from the story and thereby affected comprehension and retention.

“Just to get kids engaged with books, enhanced e-books have their place,” said Cynthia Chiong, the lead researcher on the study. “If they want their children to work on reading skills or vocabulary, they may want to choose an e-book or enhanced e-book that is more literary focused.”

Publishers of children’s enhanced e-books who are concerned about the educational value of their products should try to limit the different kinds of interactivity in a book and try to tie the interactivity as much to the words on the pages as possible, said Takeuchi.

“If kids and parents are focusing on more of the features of the book, then they’re not going to be developing those literacy skills as much,” she said. “It’s not that enhanced e-books shouldn’t include these things, but publishers should be mindful about it.”

For parents, the advice coming out the study is that they should focus on the text and the story when reading with their children.

“It could be more effective for parents to say, ‘hey, let’s read through the story first and then let’s read through it again,’ to experience all of the interactive levels,” said Chiong.

There are certain enhanced e-books that allow parents to turn off some of the interactive elements and parents should consider doing that, added Takeuchi.

The findings of the survey seem to dovetail with the November New York Times report and others that suggest parents are fearful of too much screen time for their children. It’s impossible to know how parents felt about reading digitally with their children two years ago, just as the iPad was coming out, or how they’ll feel about it a year hence. While a majority of parents prefer reading to children with print for now, that could change.

Regardless of the findings of this study and of the upcoming survey report, the researchers at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center see study into children’s e-reading as a moving target.

“We realize this is just a snapshot in time,” said Takeuchi. “Everything is in transition right now. IPads have only been around for a few years and these things will definitely shift.”

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

Related: For Reading and Learning, Kids Prefer E-Books to Print Books | Are Children’s E-Books Really Terrible for Your Kids?

Enhanced e-books increase overall engagement, but lower engagement with text and story.

Enhanced e-books negatively affect reading comprehension.



5 thoughts on “Parents Prefer Reading Print Books With Their Children, Survey Says

  1. Christopher Wills

    The survey might be valid but times are changeing fast and it would not surprise me if in a matter of months an entirely different result might be registered. As parent I loved reading books like the Gruffalo series with their big colour pictures to my son. But if there was an ebook version on an A4 sized ebook with equally big colour pictures and sound effects buttons to make the animal noises and possibly a short animation here and there I think I know which way the vote will go.

    I hope the print evangelists don’t start jumping up and down and saying “see we told you so.” They might be right today, but maybe tomorrow or soon, someday soon they will be wrong.

  2. Sacha Hartgers

    I loved and still love reading print books with my son. And he adores the books and the time we have together when reading print books.
    But he is quickly moving towards the enhanced e-books. I have the feeling that indeed things will change very very fast, and the results of surveys may be valid for only a couple of months at best.

  3. Heather

    We found very similar results with enhanced eBooks and struggling middle grades readers (manuscript in preparation). The interactions really seem to get in the way of comprehension, even for more advanced readers.

  4. Chris

    eBooks are fine for adults and older children, who already can read – but the reading comprehension issue is a big one, especially with the enhanced eBooks, when the kids are still learning how to read. It’s like a combination of comic books and television. And it’s yet another reason to make more things to eventually be tossed in the trash and to use electricity when the money could be spent on better thinks. Paper books can be recycled when they wear out and they are not subject to the whims of technology. I prefer print, thanks. The experience is important. Easier on the eyes, feels good in the hands, and it’s a real activity, not just a viewing \experience\ – virtual vs. real.



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