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Survey: Parents Prefer Reading Print Books to Young Kids

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Don't count print books obsolete just yet -- especially when it comes to younger kids. A study released today by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center shows that even among parents who like reading e-books with their kids, the majority still prefer to read print books over e-books with their children.

The survey, which included 1,200 parents of children age 2 to 6, showed that, of those who owned iPads (462 in total), an overwhelming majority -- 89.9 percent -- said they read mostly print books and some e-books, compared to 7.5 percent who say they read print books and e-books equally with their children, and only 2.7 percent who read mostly or exclusively e-books.

But the report also draws an interesting conclusion about how print books or e-books (in this case, iPads with multimedia features) are alternately preferred in certain situations. During times when parents want to read with their kids (co-read, as the report calls it), print books are preferred, even when e-books are available. But parents prefer e-books when they're traveling or commuting.

Mixed reactions were reported in other aspects too. Although parents recognize that e-books can play a role in developing their kids' literacy skills, especially when kids are reading alone, many iPad owners -- a full one-third surveyed -- said that sometimes "it's just too difficult to read with a child on digital devices, and nearly as many are worried the child would start to want to use the iPad all the time." Overall, in fact, 60 percent of parents said they prefer their child to read traditional print books.

This report follows another, much smaller survey of 32 parents, which examined the difference between recall and comprehension when kids read e-books versus print books.


Of course, nuances in parents' motivations should be further examined, the report's authors write, with the following questions:

  • This survey focused on co-reading practices. What patterns of perceptions and behaviors exist among owners of iPads and other devices with regards to children’s solo use of e-books?
  • Do similar e-book perception and co-reading patterns exist among different samples of parents (for example, among samples of fathers or parents from different socio-economic circumstances?).
  • What role do specific e-book features play in children’s co-reading and solo reading experiences?
    • What makes some parents perceive various features (e.g., embedded hotspots and animations) as helpful and others perceive them as distracting?
    • How do individual features aid or undermine the reading experience and children’s literacy development? Is the influence consistent across diverse reading contexts and when engaged with varying content (e.g., a preliterate child reading alone; when reading with a parent; when reading with a sibling; while reading various types of stories)?
    • Do parents’ and children’s perceptions of features change as they become more familiar with the device and with the specific e-book? Does the effectiveness of a feature change with exposure?
    • Do similar patterns exist for families who own other types of devices for reading children’s e-books?

As our reading habits continue to evolve in response to new technologies, parents are still figuring out how best to leverage the devices and when it's more appropriate to stick with print books.

"Our perspective is that we have yet to see best practices emerge from e-book designers. We must also keep in mind that this survey analysis merely presents a snapshot in time—parent sentiments and behaviors will evolve as kids’ e-books do and as they gain familiarity with e-books and devices for reading e-books," the report states.


** UPDATE: The post has been edited to reflect the number of iPad owners' responses (462) compared to the total number of those surveyed (1,200).