A recent study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center that's receiving lots of attention (like here and here) examines the question of which offers better literacy-building experiences for young children, traditional print books or e-books.

boys reading with book and ereaderThe study looked at 32 pairs of parents and their young children, aged 3 to 6. Each parent-child pair participated in two read-togethers. One of their read-together experiences involved a traditional print book. For their second read-together, half of the parent-child pairs read a basic e-book while the other half read an enhanced e-book. Enhanced e-books are those that include some sort of technology-induced interactive engagement, setting them apart from the plain text and non-interactive images of a basic e-book.

What the study found was that "enhanced e-books offer observably different co-reading experiences than print and basic e-books…" and that "the enhanced e-book was less effective than the print and basic e-book in supporting the benefits of co-reading because it prompted more non-content related interactions." Bottom line: It's easy to be distracted from the business of literacy skills when you're busy trying to figure out what your book can "do."

So does this mean that you should steer your child clear of all interactive books? Certainly not! Enhanced e-books can play a great part in building the skills and knowledge of young learners. For example, they're can be quite helpful when reading content-rich, non-fiction material. They're also great for your "just for fun" reading, because, let's face it, they really are fun to read. And, as the study's authors note, their bells and whistles of an enhanced e-book can often motivate the otherwise reluctant reader to pick it up and give it a try.

Remember, all sorts of print sources can have a place in a child's reading diet. Of course, it's a good idea to approach all aspects of children's learning with care. Think about what it is you really want your child or your students to be learning and doing, then choose books, games, and activities that support those objectives.