Paper books tell your kids a better story
Tactility improves parent/child bond
Johannesburg mom Kim Mari's three children love books so much that they sleep with them under their pillows at night.
Mari, who has a collection of over 1,000 children's books in her Parkview home, has turned her nose up at the electronic variety because she believes they are less interactive and rob her of bonding time with her trio.
Mari's stance on electronic books is reflected in new research from the University of Michigan in the US, which found that print books may have an edge on e-books when it comes to quality time shared between parents and their children.
Researchers said parents verbalised and interacted less with e-books than with print books.
Reading together usually promotes children's language development, literacy and bonding with parents. The research team wanted to learn how technology changed that experience.
The parent-toddler pairs in the study used three book formats: print books, basic e-books on a tablet and enhanced e-books with additions like sound and animation.
With e-books, not only did the pairs interact less but parents tended to talk less about the story and more about the technology itself. Sometimes this included instructions about the device, such as telling children not to push buttons or change the volume.
Literacy advocates in SA have long made a push for children to engage with books, especially after the University of Pretoria found in 2017 that eight out of 10 grade 4 pupils "still cannot read at an appropriate level".
Athol Williams, chair of literacy NGO Read to Rise, believes that in the fight against illiteracy "we need to harness all our resources, and technology is one of these. Technology can deliver books to children who otherwise may not have access to them."
But, he added: "My experience is that there is great value in a child holding a physical book in their hand; the act of turning a page and tracing the words with a finger, and gazing at the illustrations on the page, possesses some magical force that engages them."
Another literacy champion, advocate Marukgwane Moremogolo, who recently started the #Kilometers4Books campaign, said that with the majority of South Africans living below the poverty line "the electronic versions of books become inaccessible to the majority of children as the tablets are expensive. Printed books also create a sense of community and don't need batteries to charge and operate."
Moremogolo recently ran 12km of the Two Oceans ultramarathon in Cape Town reading a novel as part of his campaign for book donations.
Mari said print books, besides allowing her to bond with her children - Cailin, Sashin and Lyra Nagoor - stimulated their imagination.
"I find e-books very impersonal with no real interaction between myself and the kids.
"Children's imaginations are just wonderful and I think they will benefit much more from reading a print book than an e-book."