I had to laugh when I read this New York Times article, which at the start seems to suggest that parents who use e-readers are hypocritical by insisting their children read paper books. To quote a bit, “They freely acknowledge their digital double standard, saying they want their children to be surrounded by print books” and they “fear that a shiny gadget might get all the attention” and “if little Joey is going to spit up, a book may be easier to clean than a tablet computer.”
Chah! There’s no double standard here. There’s intelligence. Wisdom, even.
I have no fears that little Joey will grow up to be at least computer literate. His parents already own e-readers, so there’s a decent chance that they own other electronic communications devices, and there are also computers at the very libraries and schools that little Joey may visit or attend, and, oh yeah, his place of work will likely have a computer, too. So I’m not worried that little Joey will think an e-reader is a shiny paperweight.
I’m a lot more worried — as are his parents obviously — that little Joey will think of the e-reader as a nifty projectile. Seriously, what do toddlers do when they’re done with a book? They throw it. Okay, maybe, if they’re particularly gentle children, they’ll drop it. Super. Imagine, all my faithful readers, going to your bedroom and repeatedly dropping, oh, say, your alarm clock, which probably cost a whole lot less than your precious e-reader. After even two drops, are you still thinking that giving little Joey an e-reader is a good idea? Of course parents are hesitant to hand their kids devices that cost hundreds of dollars. Witness the evidence; this second picture is from a friend who handed his iPhone to his toddler. Not as pretty as the first picture above, is it?
So let’s imagine instead that you choose to simply hand little Joey a couple hundred-dollar bills (the cost of the e-reader). What will he do with the bills? Why, tear them! Obviously! That is why books for the young are BOARD books, because otherwise the books would end up shredded all over the living room or chewed up in baby’s belly.
And, yes, I must concur with parents that electronic gadgets don’t enhance a child’s concentration. How many times have we seen children hit buttons just to see what will happen? It’s power at their fingertips!!! “Forget what Curious George did at the zoo!” thinks little Joey. “Look what happens when I press the bat! He flies! Yippee!” It’s cool and all but doesn’t exactly help him sound out the word “bat.”
So I say, don’t feel too hypocritical if you refuse to surrender your electronic gadgets. They’re yours for now. When little Joey can handle it and respect it, he too can enjoy all the whiz-bang extras of the latest and greatest electronics. He’ll be just fine for now.