Reading to children: why the paper book is better than the tablet

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Are books even better for reading than tablets?

Smartphones and tablets can appear more stimulants thanks to the ability to access sound and multimedia, yet read a dear old man paper book still seems like the best solution for small children.

To say it is an American study from the University of Michigan which, focusing on the age group between two and two years, has verified how reading fairy tales, fairy tales and nursery rhymes using the book in the more traditional format involves a greater benefit in the cognitive and emotional development of the little ones.

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A systematic review

The research - which appeared in the December 2022 issue of the authoritative Pediatrics magazine - examined a sample of 72 parents to analyze their reactions and interactions while they read some nursery rhymes to their respective young children using different media: some nursery rhymes were in fact printed on paper, others had been loaded on tablets.

At the end of the experimental phase, the scholars were able to see how the experience of reading "on paper" allowed parents and children not only to interact and converse much more, But also make better emotional connections. On the other hand, when sharing the tablet, mothers and fathers tended to ask few questions and in general to involve the children less in the repetition and learning of the verses, children who in fact were more distracted than the sessions with paper books.

The richness of the interactions given by reading "on paper", therefore, would further favor the development of cognitive and emotional abilities, while tablets and e-books - which also offer many more features - would end up distracting and impoverishing the experience.

Babies therefore benefit from hit-and-run interactions, he said Dipesh Navsaria, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, during the commentary on the study (which he did not participate in), focusing in particular on the role played by the different reading tools during the use of a text.

"Electronic devices distract because the child focuses on the object that is doing something (production of sounds and / or images, ed), which does not happen with printed books - continued the expert - Tablets end up distracting the attention from reading, making it much more difficult. In fact, a parent has to work harder to get an interaction "

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Paper beats digital

This research offers a new and surprising perspective, the authors of the study themselves write in the footnotes, especially if we consider the 98% of families of children under the age of 9 have an electronic device (smartphone or tablet) and that children spend on average more than two hours a day using such digital media.

"While tablets and other technologies appear stimulating - said the pediatrician Brandi Freeman, associate vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Children's Hospital Colorado - the best deal is still using a paper book. "

The questions and interactions prompted by reading on paper are in fact for Freeman the "fuel" necessary for a baby's brain:

«If reading a book about Clifford (a famous dog who is the protagonist of many children's stories n.d.r) asks "do you see a big red dog?"; "What are you doing?"; "Does he seem happy to you?" you get more attention from the little ones - he explained - Even if they don't answer, it's that kind of open question that helps in terms of development and growth ».

Read also: Very first readings: how to make children passionate about books

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