Growing Bookworms – Interactive books for children – Part 2: Digital books

Last month, I discussed physical interactive books for children and their benefits. You can read this post here:

This month, I am sharing the pros and cons of digital interactive books for children.

Firstly, what is an interactive eBook?

An interactive eBook is an ebook that has elements with which the reader can directly interact. This type of ebook has a lot of touchpoints where the reader can interact with videos, audio recordings, links and other content.

I read several articles about the benefits of eBooks for children and the experts believe that reading print books to toddlers and small children results in a better reading experience for the child. Research shows that children and parents/caregivers interact more frequently with one another when they are reading a paperback book and turning pages, and the quality of their interactions are better. This translates into better language development, literacy and bonding with caregivers.

The above being said, there are benefits to eBooks. Enabling children to learn new words and improve their fine motor schools are two of the more obvious benefits. The ability to engage with the storyline and possibly make choices, teaches children to weigh up options and improves their decision making abilities.

For reluctant readers, animated sounds, actions and special effects in books makes them more interesting and helps develop an interest in books and reading.

For economically disadvantaged children or children in settings that do not allow for borrowing books from public libraries, eBooks are a cheaper option. Parents can accumulate a digital library for their children at a fraction of the cost of a physical book. eBooks are also a more environmental friendly option as they do not use as many natural resources.

Children whose parents work long or unusual hours and can’t read to their children, benefit from having stories read to them by a digital reader. eBooks also provide for parents to read to their children when they are not in the same location. Parents and children can synch their ipads or iphones so they can interact on their screen in real time while holding an audio conversation. This is beneficial for parents whose jobs involve travel.

The down side of eBooks in this context is that to many sounds, actions and special effects can distract the child from the story as they don’t focus on it, but rather on the interactive features. There is a concern among experts that many eBooks available commercially are targeted towards amusement and emphasis multimedia, colours, sounds and other interactions and do not encourage literacy and language development. Studies have concluded that multimedia elements that enhance an understanding of the text benefit children, while those that draw the child’s attention away from the story, are non-beneficial.

If you are interested in having a look at what is available for children in the eBook line, Amazon does stock them. Here is a link to one such book called Another Monster at the End of This Book…Starring Grover & Elmo! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B7S5FDG. There are a number of interesting reviews for this particular book.

What do you think about eBooks? Have you tried them? Do you think they are the future of children’s books?

About Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with eleven children’s books and two poetry books.

The eight Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, 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.

Robbie and Michael have also written Haunted Halloween Holiday, a delightful fantasy story for children aged 5 to 9 about Count Sugular and his family who hire a caravan to attend a Halloween party at the Haunted House in Ghost Valley. This story is beautifully illustrated with Robbie’s fondant and cake art creations.

Robbie has published two books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has two adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories, in the horror and paranormal genre, and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie Cheadle contributes two monthly posts to https://writingtoberead.com, namely, Growing Bookworms, a series providing advice to caregivers on how to encourage children to read and write, and Treasuring Poetry, a series aimed at introducing poetry lovers to new poets and poetry books.

In addition, Roberta Eaton Cheadle contributes one monthly post to https://writingtoberead.com called Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends which shares information about the cultures, myths and legends of the indigenous people of southern Africa.

Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com. where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVyFo_OJLPqFa9ZhHnCfHUA

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

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66 Comments on “Growing Bookworms – Interactive books for children – Part 2: Digital books”

  1. It’s a coin toss here. I would venture the thought that you have to know your child and pay attention to the child’s preferences. If the budget is not restricted, then a variety of options sounds good.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Robbie, Just thought I’d weigh in here. I agree that you must know your child and interactive books would be more effective with certain children than others.

    I think you have the same situation with adults, too. I can also see where interactive learning tools can easily send some adults down rabbit holes of all sorts. I used them to an extent as an undergraduate, and while they offered lots of additional information for me, it sent me off on several different paths and made it take much longer to complete my studies. I may have learned more studying this way though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI Kaye, I agree that such tools can be most helpful and I have some interactive ebooks myself. I think that for early learners the distractions are more about entertainment than additional learning though. I am not against eBooks. I am going to try to make one myself. I think that is what children want and children’s book authors have to follow.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, it is important for us as authors, to keep up with publishing trends and stay ahead of the game. That’s one problem with trad. publishing, they are too slow and resistant to change. They could learn a lot from flexible indie authors. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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

    I am over at Writing to be Read with this month’s Growing Bookworms post which discusses interactive digital books for children. Thank you to Kaye Lynne Booth for hosting.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jane Risdon says:

    Fascinating. I don’t have small children to read to, my own grandchildren live in the USA, and they are too old for this, but I am sure many will be enthralled with this concept.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Jane, thanks for visiting. My own children are also to old for these books but I see the trend pulling through into the computer games they play which have reading, audio, soundtracks, and video inserts. I like non-fiction ebooks that include video links. I often find them in war books I read and the videos are stories told by soldiers at the time which are very interesting to me.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Jane Risdon says:

        it is a great idea. I missed out on my grandkiddies when they were little, would have loved to have done all this with them. Technology is fantastic, such possibilities. I love the stories from those who went through the two wars. I only have my own family and their stories which are fascinating, so collecting so many from others must be wonderful. I am a history buff, hence my family history research over 40 plus years. Hoping you have a great week. xx

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Dave Astor says:

    Very interesting post, Robbie. My feeling is that “old-fashioned” books give more scope to a young reader’s imagination than books that offer digital interactions. But I can see your point that, for some children, the bells and whistles can be an advantage.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Dave, I do agree with you that having the visuals provided do take away a significant part of the imaginative and creative element of reading. I can remember seeing films of books I’d read as a girl and being so disappointed by the visual depiction of a character who I’d imagined completely differently. I don’t watch any films or TV, but I do see that eBooks are already a part of the modern reading culture.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. beetleypete says:

    I still like to see children turning the pages of a real book, but e-books definitely have their place in the modern world too. Shared both posts on Twitter, Robbie.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Pete, thanks for sharing and it’s great to see you. I agree that eBooks are popular and part of the modern world. I am going to have a go at creating one. I’ve managed an ordinary ebook without animation so the next step is to attempt an animated design.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I did wonder whether the multimedia bells and whistles would distract children from the story itself. One thing I noticed in my last couple of years of teaching online is that the younger students had a short attention span when reading online. I think it’s because our brains automatically go into skim mode when we read on a screen because it’s a necessity when on the internet.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. As with so many education resources, this one is good for a certain group of kids. In some ways, it can reach them, turn them on to reading in ways traditional books can’t. Good summary.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Kerfe says:

    I myself prefer actual books. But I can see the benefits for a reluctant reader. And they are convenient.

    Liked by 3 people

    • HI Kerfe, I have tried everything with my sons. Greg remains a lover of print books and will not read an ebook. Michael does well with audio books and will read a print book when coerced to do so. He does like interactive computer games and a lot of them have a significant amount of reading and I’m of the modern school of thought that reading is reading no matter what the subject matter.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. petespringerauthor says:

    I am not an expert by any means, but my experiences tell me print books for toddlers is the way to go. Touching and flipping the pages is part of the overall experience. One of the best ways to bond with a child while teaching them the value of books is by reading together. I read with our son through 6th grade. He developed a lifelong love of books. It does my heart good when I see my adult son choose reading as one of the ways to spend his downtime.

    Liked by 3 people

    • HI Pete, I also prefer print books for small children and for many years I would not read ebooks, I have capitulated now as I have no more storage space so only buy collectors item books. A lot of children don’t have much interaction with their parents now in our busy modern world. I see it in my own job. Women travel extensively, work long hours, and a lot spend their spare time doing their own things and not with their children. There is an old saying – out of sight, out of mind – and I think this applies with children. It never worked for me. My kids have never been far from my mind and I just flatly refused to travel or stay in the office after 5pm. I don’t mind working form home at night. It is amazing how when you take a stand, people accept it. Anyhow, the point was that these children don’t have anyone to read to them so interactive digital books do fill a gap. I am now very keen to make a digital interactive eBook using digital design.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. petespringerauthor says:

    I wonder if the trend is the same in South Africa as in the United States. Many people found out they liked working from home and didn’t want to return to the office. Depending on the job, this may not be feasible.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. marianbeaman says:

    Interactive books seem like mostly a very good thing. The more senses involved in the learning, the better. I also think that such books are an invitation for older and younger generations to participate. I love that Flex, the Muscle guy, my name–not yours. He is so energetic looking. Ha!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. BERNADETTE says:

    I bought an Alice in Wonderland Pop Up Book based on your recommendation. It has made reading more enjoyable for my “reluctant reader” granddaughter. I will have to take a look at the interactive Ebooks and see if there is anything for her reading level. Also, I bought several used pop up books from Thrift Books at a great savings.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Staci Troilo says:

    I’m a fan of anything that gets books in front of kids. I expect my daughter will use both media for her daughter. While I have fond memories of cuddling with my kids and their books, I appreciate that technology will let me do that with my granddaughter even when we’re not together. Thanks, Robbie.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I’ve always been a fan of physical books, Robbie, but I can see benefits to digital as well. Interaction is good as long as it’s not distracting. I’m not an expert though, so I base my thoughts from my own “mom” experience. I agree like others have pointed out that the choice depends on the means of learning that best fits the child. Getting children to read is the main point. All of your books are wonderful, and I just finished Haunted Halloween Holiday which I loved. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI Lauren, I am so happy you enjoyed Haunted Halloween Holiday. I am rather fond of the artwork in that book and the little characters. I am also an advocate of a mix of books and styles and a believer in ‘reading is reading whatever the book’. I am busy attempting to design a new Sir Choc book as an interactive ebook for publication in Kindle Unlimited for Christmas. It will only be an ebook due to the insert features. It is a big challenge but I am getting there.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. dgkaye says:

    I can see the benefits to both versions. But just like to me, as an adult, I adore real books and I don’t think young children should be denied the pleasure of reading a real book and using their imagination – if they can afford it. 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Toni Pike says:

    Great article, Robbie – I agree with you, I think these are good but only in moderation. Toni x

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Jim Borden says:

    thanks for such a well-balanced review of interactive digital books. They have their place, but when possible, I think most children’s books should be read in paper form…

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Great topic. I had some interactive ebooks that I used to read with my grandson when he was small. We loved the songs and voices and pressing on images to learn the words. But it was something we did together, which I think was key to the enjoyment. A love of reading is something we need to model as adults, no matter the format. 🙂 Thanks for the great post, Robbie, and thanks for hosting Kaye Lynne.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Jennie says:

    Robbie, you know I’m the hard copy gal, yet you make some excellent points on the benefits of ebooks. Thank you for opening my mind to other avenues and situations.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Norah says:

    Great article, Robbie. I think there’s a place for both, but I think the story and the discussion are more important than any distractors, regardless of the medium – paper or digital. Sometimes it is the distractors that attract initially.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. acflory says:

    I’ve never taught at the primary level, but I believe that anything which gives kids a love of reading is good. Once they associate words and books/ebooks with a pleasurable occupation, they’ll be set for life. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  23. olganm says:

    Thanks for this very informative post. I don’t have children, and although I’ve spent time with my friends’ children, it is not the same, but your advice and the results of the studies make sense. There are advantages and disadvantages to everything, although I had not thought about the possibility of remote reading and sharing the content of the book (a very good idea)! I agree that sometimes too many gimmicks can distract from the actual story, and it can be difficult to find the right balance. Having both options is important, and, there will be ebooks that make good use of their interactive features and others that don’t, so it is important to check and be vigilant. Another great article, Robbie.

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI Olga, thank you for your lovely comment and for weighing up the information I shared and adding your opinion. I am also a believer in moderation in all things and investigating a product (a book or anything else) before I give it to my sons. Of course, they are big now, and make a lot of their own choices, but the ideas I instilled in them have taken root.

      Liked by 1 person


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