Friday, July 8, 2011

Digitally interactive books versus a child's imagination.

My thoughts on digital books continue to evolve with new information and data on their effects on the way children read. If I was ‘Tsarina’ today…. I would like to keep children reading books they hold in their hands. A child’s brain develops most dramatically during the first five years and shapes how their brain matures. I am concerned that reading digitally adversely affects how children read and comprehend. I watch children reading digitally and I see how multi-tasking and distraction are part of that experience.

Offering children digitally interactive book brings up other issues as well.
I recently looked at the popular Alice and Wonderland digital book app and I found it difficult to get to the story— which took a back seat to the inter active nature of the app. Do I need the White Rabbit’s old-fashioned pocket watch or a jar of marmalade to move when I tilt the iPad or touch an object?  The question is what are children losing and what are they gaining when they digitally read versus reading a book they hold in their hands. My worry is that children reading on digital devices are losing some of the essential qualities of reading—the ability to concentrate deeply, reflect and peruse meaning.

Book apps mix text with video, sound and game-like interactivity. Authors and publishers are recasting themselves as app makers and I can’t quite decide if a book app is a book, a movie, or a game. I don’t think we need all the bells and whistles to make a great story great.  It’s A Book, by Lane Smith seems to be making the point that the very qualities that we love about books do not need those features. Give children a great story they can get lost in –and let them use their own imagination to conjure up the sounds, sights and smells the story evokes. 

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