According to former professor of linguistics at American University Naomi Baron, we must consider two components of reading, the physical medium and the child’s mind-set, to say which is better.
Professor Baron recommends using physical reading materials with young children. This is because a child often asks questions or makes comments to the adult reading the book. The child is less likely to pause to speak when seeing a book online. Online materials sometimes have ads, pop-ups or such visually stimulating material that the child is distracted from the meaning of the material.
Dr. Baron says that because children use online modes for games and socialization, they are used to absorbing material on tablets or cell phones effortlessly. When they see a book online, they expect to understand it just as effortlessly. They are unprepared for deep engagement with online reading materials.
For more information, see Dr. Baron’s new book, How We Read Now: Strategic Choices for Print, Screen and Audio.