Growing Bookworms – Digital versus print books for children

I have been giving some thought lately to book marketing, especially the marketing of books aimed at children. While selling more books is obviously of interest to me as a writer of children’s books, I am also interested in the most advantageous ways of imparting information to, and developing a love of learning and reading in young children. This duel interest led me to an investigation of electronic books and the pros and cons of children reading using an electronic platform like a computer or an app on a tablet.

I wanted to know, firstly, if children were interested in reading ebooks.

The answer to that first question was a resounding yes, children are definitely interested in reading ebooks. Modern children are surrounded by technology and it is becoming more and more central to their lives. Lately, not only do children use cell phones and tablets to communicate with each other, and as a source of entertainment and research for school projects, they are using it to do their school lessons and virtually visit with relatives and friends.

Since the advent of the pandemic, many children are seeing their parents working on-line at home and using Zoom to engage with their colleagues instead of face-to-face meetings, so it is hardly surprising that children are interested in ebooks. It is a natural progression.

Ebooks for children are also easily accessible, cheap, have a narrator who reads the story, and have interactive features such as animated pictures, music, sound effects, and links on the screen that connect to games or additional information about the story or pictures. I must admit, I have noticed this link feature in non-fiction books I have read recently and I also like it. I can click on the link and find out more about the source of a picture or listen to a YouTube video about a specific aspect of the book.

My second investigation looked at the pros and cons of ebooks for children.

The pros

  1. children learn early literacy skills from good quality ebooks that include relevant interactive features such as a dictionary, words that are highlighted when the narrator reads them, and games and pictures that help explain the story;
  2. children interact longer with their parents when reading an ebook together;
  3. children can read an ebook over and over again on their own which improves literacy and fluency;
  4. children can read an ebook independently which may encourage them to read more often; and
  5. ebooks are cheap and accessible.

The cons

  1. parents often feel they should reduce their children’s screen time and have a resistance to ebooks;
  2. parents think their children can have the book read to them by the narrator and spend less time reading to [and bonding with] their children;
  3. parents get distracted by the interactive features and end up focusing on them instead of the story itself;
  4. children learn less about the story from an ebook, in particular they do not remember the order of events as well as they do when reading a paper book; and
  5. the interactive features in an ebook may be distracting to the child.

My overarching takeaway from the above which is a summary of all the articles I read on this subject is that, as with paper books, children benefit the most from ebooks when they read them with a parent or caregiver who spends time taking to the child about the story. This is exactly the same benefit that a child receives from reading a paper book with a parent.

The general view is that parents either take the view that their input is not required for ebooks due to the narrator who reads the story to the child, or the parents get distracted away from the detail of the story by the interactive features and so the wrong information dominates the parent/child engagement.

In homes where the parents do not spend time reading with/to their children, it is believed that ebooks can play a bigger role in assisting children to learn to read as it provides a way of achieving the reading of a story without parental input.

I’ve always read to both my boys. I read with Gregory until he was 6 1/2 years old and wanted to read on his own and I read with Michael every day until he was 12. Some evenings I still read with Michael [his book] and we often sit and read our own books together. It is still a pleasant time and reading separate books at the same time means I don’t have to suffer through Rick Riordan books all year round.

If you are interested in finding free digital children’s books for primary students, you can find three recommended websites here: https://learningattheprimarypond.com/blog/3-websites-with-free-digital-childrens-books-for-primary-students/

https://home.oxfordowl.co.uk/reading/free-ebooks/

I have not attempted to download any of the free ebooks from Oxford Owl but these are the book series I used to teach my sons to read. I had the paper copies.

What are your thoughts on ebooks for children? Have you tried them? Let me know in the comments.

If you have spare Easter eggs you can learn how to make a fun Easter chick here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bod4B029_xw

OR you can download the instructions here: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/how-to-make-baby-chick-using-an-easter-egg/

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Robbie Cheadle has published nine books for children and one poetry book. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate children’s picture books are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision. Her books for older children also incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.

Children’s picture books – available as a square book and an A5 book (co-authored with Michael Cheadle):
Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the baby cookie monster story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the sugar dough bees story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Crystal Caves story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Fondant Five story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Ice Cream Rainbow Fairies story and cookbook

Middle school books:
Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town (includes five fun party cake ideas)
While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with Elsie Hancy Eaton)

Poetry book:
Open a new door (co-authored with Kim Blades)

Supernatural fantasy YA novel:
Through the Nethergate

Horror Anthologies (edited by Dan Alatorre):
Spellbound
Nightmareland
Dark Visions

Paranormal Anthologies (edited by Kaye Lynne Booth):
Spirits of the West
Whispers of the Past

Murder mystery Anthology (edited by Stephen Bentley)
Death Among Us

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


50 Comments on “Growing Bookworms – Digital versus print books for children”

  1. Ritu says:

    I think they are great as an option, especially for those who don’t have access to paper copies.
    They were a great resource to share with our parents when in remote learning, as libraries abnd bookshops were shut, too.
    But, having said that, I still prefer a physical copy of a book for children.
    It’s something tactile for me!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on Robbie's inspiration and commented:

    This month’s topic for Growing Bookworms is Digital versus print books for children. What is your preference? Thank you to Kaye Lynne Booth for hosting me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robbie, this is a marvelous post, and such a relevant topic.

      I’ve become accustom to reading on my Kindle Fire, but I still don’t like that my “library” is in someone else’s hands, or on the cloud, or wherever my ebooks are parked. Having a print book that I can hold, gives me more control over my books. I’m just an old fashioned girl.

      I do see advantages in ebooks for today’s children. I did not know that children’s books came with a narrator. That makes potential as a learning tool, but I would still limit the time spent reading digital books, as to avoid eye strain, which can be a real problem when staring at any screen for too long.

      Like

  3. If it gets them to read, it’s almost a big who cares… However, I still prefer to hold books and to present children with books, they too can hold. Makes more sense to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Annette, I agree about ‘if it gets them reading’. The benefit of digital books is that it makes kids more self sufficient. They can have the books read to them and engage with the story via apps. For children whose parents don’t read to them much, this seems like a great opportunity to give them what they don’t have. For parents who do read to their kids, I think bonding over a book with a cup of cocoa just can’t be improved on.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. marianbeaman says:

    I’m contemplating this question: ebooks vs. print books for my next story book, Kids and Oaks. Publishing in both formats is advisable, but now the question: Which one first? Aside from careful formatting, an ebook publishes faster than print versions, which have to be mailed. Hmmm, you gave me cause for pause now. Thank you, Robbie!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you found this post useful, Marian. For me, because I publish my books via a UK publisher it always takes ages for them to go live on Amazon and it is always the paperback first. I like paperbacks for kids but I also buy digital books now and again.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. […] I have been giving some thought lately to book marketing, especially the marketing of books aimed at children. While selling more books is obviously of interest to me as a writer of children’s book, I am also interested in the most advantageous ways of imparting information to, and developing a love of learning and reading… — Read on writingtoberead.com/2021/04/14/growing-bookworms-digital-versus-print-books-for-children/ […]

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for this post, Robbie. I have been curious about this very question myself!

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI Liz, the answer is not total clear, but to me it really boils down to the extent of parental involvement. Digital will certainly help children read books that they cannot read on their own and that is a big plus. When Michael was a little sick lad and off school for days on end, I used to buy him dozens of audio books to listen to. All the classics, non-fiction, and Enid Blyton’s FAmous Five. He loved them and now has a large vocabulary and an excellent command of English despite the learning barrier that made learning to read a challenge for him. At that time, I didn’t really know about ebooks or I would have got those for him too. I also read to him.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I would also expect that listening to audio books as a child would have develop skills as an auditory learner, which in some school settings is critical to success–and in the work world, too, now that I think about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Staci Troilo says:

    I donated hundreds of books to charity when my kids were too old for them. And I still kept dozens to read to my grandkids (when I have some). All those books take up so much space and it feels like such a waste of resources if the charity destroys them (which I suspect they do if no one wants them after so long on their shelves, but I try not to think about it). But nothing beats the experience of an actual book.

    That said, there are so many benefits to ebooks, and you covered them all.

    At the end of the day, as the author, I say make your work available in both formats (which I’m sure you are). The consumer will decide which version to purchase. We have enough things to agonize over without worrying about something we can’t control.

    Great post, Robbie.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Staci, I do have my books available in both formats, but it is an interesting question as to whether one form of reading for children has more benefits than the other. It would seem that they both have benefits so a hybrid approach seems sensible. I have also donated a lot of books to charity, but their is an endless need here. A lot of the schools are very short of books.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Staci Troilo says:

        The other day, my son told me he read an article that stated some children are proficient in the use of iPads and other electronic devices before they are able to speak. I think ebooks are definitely the way of the future for future generations even if they’re still split now. It is a fascinating topic, though.

        Liked by 3 people

  8. Darlene says:

    As long as they are reading, or being read to. All children should have a bit of a library of print books as well as ebooks in today’s world. I agree with you, children still love to read. I always buy books for the children in my life, in fact, I’m known as the book grandma! A couple of Christmases ago, I bought something different for the children instead of books as I thought they might be getting bored of that. They were very disappointed!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you for this interesting post, Robbie.

    Whilst I can see the advantages of interactive elements within electronic books, I agree with your view that they may distract both children and adults from the story or other content. In addition Youtube and other web links may change or be deleted. The latter issue can, I think become a great problem over time as links don’t, on the whole survive for protracted time periods (when compared to books I mean). If I refer to a print book or an article in a hard copy magazine, it will, almost certainly be available somewhere. Even if it means a trip to the British Library to locate it! However that may well not be the case with a link to a purely electronic book.

    I also agree with you that children need time away from screens.

    A final thought. A print book given to a child by a much loved relative or friend is often treasured for many years. I am not sure that the gift of an ebook carries the same meaning.

    Best wishes. Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kevin, that is a great point and I think you are spot on. Digital books are easily lost and/or forgotten about. I lost many of my ebooks when I switched over to a new device and the books on the old one were not supported and they just disappeared from my library.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you. I am sorry you lost your books when you moved to a new device, and I hope that this never happens again. I think ebooks are great. They make it easier for me, as a blind person, to access the written word. However, I still have a special place in my heart for the traditional, paper book. Kevin

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kevin, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I recall the article on your blog quite recently about the lack of durability of ebooks. If Amazon failed, for example, the audible books I have would not be supported and would disappear, same with the ebooks. I am now buying all the classics as paperbacks. My most recent acquisition is Gone with the Wind which is the subject of some controversy currently. With regards to children and reading, I always bought my sons paperbacks. On the whole, I still do although recently I have been getting Michael to read his school setworks as an ebook. I am then able to track his progress and ensure he gets the book completed within the necessary period. I also buy him audio books of his setworks so he can also listen to the story. It is yielding good results and his marks have gone up for English. I think interactive ebooks have their place for children, especially those whose parents are not as involved. Sadly, those are the children who are unlikely to be introduced to the ebooks unless it is via the school and teachers.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. olganm says:

    I was also opposed to e-books initially but wouldn’t know what to do without mine now. On the other hand, I think some types of books, those with images or plenty of photographs are better in paper, but of course, interactivity has become important, and it depends on how good the electronic version is, as screens nowadays are fantastic. Your point about reading with the children is very important, and I agree it is a lovely activity and one that helps learning and bonding.
    Thanks for another great post, Robbie, and thanks as well to Kaye.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. memadtwo says:

    I’m ambivalent about it myself. If a child has no bookreading without it, of course it’s a good thing. But I think we all spend too much time on screens. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kerfe, we do all spend to much time on screens, but that is how we write, blog, work, and now read. It is the way of this modern world. I prefer paperback books for my kids, but I do read on a kindle.

      Liked by 2 people

      • memadtwo says:

        I have a hard time with screens, although of course I use them like everyone else. But I can’t spend too long on them. I guess I’m just out of synch with the world. My children would certainly agree!

        Liked by 2 people

  12. You touched on all the pros and cons of ebooks and print books, Robbie. I think for younger children such as toddlers, print books are good. My granddaughters started with vinyl and cloth books as infants, then board books at one or two years old. By the time Autumn was careful enough (2 1/2) to turn the pages gently, she read regular books, mostly hardcover.

    As you pointed out about the parents’ concern about screen time, Autumn hasn’t started reading ebooks yet. When I taught preschool, I read to the students. In kindergarten, students wanted me to repeat reading some of the books and I started playing the audio while flipping the pages.

    Right now, Autumn wants to read the books over and over again until she memorizes the books, then she read those books aloud on her own. So for the toddlers up to pre-school (or kindergarten), it’s good to have print books for them to handle on their own without turning on the computer. So I would say, it depends on the ages of the children.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Miriam, thank you for your lovely comment. I am tracking Autumn’s reading progress with great interest, and I’m sure Nora will be joining her soon. Both my sons liked to have certain books read to them over and over. With Greg it was the Farmyard Tales with Poppy and Sam and their dog, Rusty. Michael like The Wishing Chair series by Enid Blyton. I think I still know those books off by heart.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I know how you still know those books by heart. Mercy knows many books by heart also by reading them to Autumn many times.

        Mercy doesn’t buy books for Autumn because she read day and night. Mercy checked out about 10 books at a time from the library and kept them for a while.

        When we were there, Autumn wanted us (Lynton and me) read to her a couple of hours in the morning. When my throat got sore, I asked Lynton to read them. She asked me to read Peter Rabbit that has a collection or four stories. I could only went through two stories at a time because they are long stories.

        I was amazed of the long attention span she has to listen to lengthy stories, not just picture books. She reads to herself after she wakes up and before she goes to sleep. She took many books to her bed and Mercy removed them after she was asleep.

        Liked by 2 people

        • My son, Greg, was like this as a young lad, Miriam. I was reading him Enid Blyton’s Faraway tree books when he was 18 months old. He also had a most unusual attention span. He is now a top academic student an is getting his honours blazar for academic excellence this coming school term. You have to achieve an average of over 85% for all your subjects for 6 continuous terms and 6 sets of examinations. Greg has a very high IQ and I expect this will prove to be the case with Autumn. Nurturing their abilities brings out the best in these children.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m so glad to hear about Greg’s achievement, Robbie. What a proud mother you are.

          We just watched YouTube on Greta Thunberg. She is a teen Climate Change activist. She goes around the world and UN giving speeches. She is getting the Nobel Prize. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg

          A friend’s son was a genius also, graduated from college at 16, started working in some biotech lab and he had to be escorted on the worksite because of his age.

          I’m sure you have done a great job with Greg. I’m proud of you, Robbie. You’re right about nurturing brings out the best in the children.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, Miriam.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Greta Thunberg has autism and OCD. She received 8 or 9 international prizes in 2019 and 2020, and the Doctor honoris causa, University of Mons, a Belgium university.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Jim Borden says:

    wonderful post, Robbie. I’m with you; my wife and I always enjoyed reading stories to our children, and I think that instilled a love of reading in them… if you can do that as a parent, the medium probably doesn’t matter as much…

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Good discussion of this topic, Robbie. There are some beautiful sites where children can find free ebooks that are presented almost like print books with the addition of interactive features. Ebooks are maturing for kids!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Teri Polen says:

    Ebooks weren’t an option when my boys were younger, but if they were we’d probably go with a mixture. But I’d still read to them. I started when they were babies and continued as long as they’d let me. As long as kids are reading, I doesn’t matter to me which format.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Teri, I agree that as long as kids read, the format isn’t that important. I do think picture books are better for very young children but as kids get older, they naturally gravitate towards ebook as that is their world and their expectation. I would always provide my books in both formats so that people have choices.

      Liked by 2 people


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