Tag Archives: technology’s impact on reading genres

How can I help my child navigate ebook technology? There are so many features to remember.

In 2012 the most popular interactive parts of ebooks (according to research) were voice narration, hot spots (places on the screen that respond to touch), games, sounds (music and sound effects), and text highlighting.

None of these features are present in traditional print books.

Kneeling young girl is playing a portable video game.

What this means is that before children can “read” an ebook, they need to know how to navigate its interactive features. For some children, navigating is fun. If they have wrestled with video games, like Mario Brothers, they might find navigating an ebook a challenge or even easy.

But for children new to electronic equipment, or for children who find new situations difficult, learning to read an ebook can be frustrating. For example, ebook readers need to familiarize themselves with numerous icons, whose meaning changes depending on the ebook. Tapping a backwards circling arrow in one book might mean go back to the previous page, while in another book it might alert the narrator to read the book aloud.

What can you as a parent do to help your child navigate ebooks?Boy on floor reading an ebook on his tablet.

  • Show your child various versions of the same book—a print version, an audio version, and a digitally available one, for example. Or show several different digital stories. Point out that reading each one requires different skills. Try to name some features that are the same and some that are different.
  • Model how to navigate an ebook, talking to yourself out loud so your child can hear you think aloud. Ask your child for suggestions. Explore the technology of the book together.
  • When you or someone close to you gets a new phone or tablet or other device, explore its features with your child. Point out to your child the new features and how important it is to stay up-to-date on these changes. Imagine together what features your next device will have.
  • When the child reads an ebook and encounters a problem, help him to solve it with minimal involvement from you, so he develops a “can-do” attitude. Remind him of another situation like this which he has already encountered. Encourage him to try various approaches. Be persistent.
  • Most importantly, make your child comfortable with the idea of change.

Do electronic games teach kids how to read?

A father of a four-year-old told me his son recently said, “Dad, I know how to spell exit.  E-X-I-T.”

“You’re right.  How did you learn that?” the father asked.

“Easy,” the child replied.  “Playing Mario.”

Seated young boy is playing a portable video game..

Click on picture to enlarge it.

The father explained that the boy is crazy about Mario games.  He can read little words, but not big ones, so sometimes he pauses the game and asks his father what a particular word means.  “He wants to know all the words so that he can beat the game,” the father explained.

So eager is the boy to win the games that on his own he learned how to navigate to YouTube on an iPad and typed in “Mario” and “Super Mario Bros. U.”  Then he listened to college kids commenting on how to win the games.  “He picked up the lingo and improved his vocabulary,” said the father.  And he won the games.  Now he wants to teach other little kids how to win the Mario games which are the rage at his preschool.

This child has been raised with electronics.  At two he received a Leapster and a dozen games, some of which taught letter recognition and small words.  On the family iPad he routinely searches Google for tips on playing Mario games.

Kneeling young girl is playing a portable video game.

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Sometimes he finds what he thinks might be useful information, but he can’t read it, so he and his father read it together.

Similar to how bilingual children merge words from one language into another, this child mixes “electronic” terms into his “analog” life.  On a family vacation his grandfather was reading a book to him when his mother called the child for a minute.  “Pause it, Grandpa,” the four-year-old said.  “Navigate” is as natural to him as “go.”

How about your child?  Has he or she learned how to read from playing electronic games?

Do preschool-aged boys prefer different reading materials from girls?

Yes.  Even three- and four-year-olds show differences.  Here are some differences worth pointing out, although these vary from child to child.

  • Boys—even preschool boys—prefer different genres of reading from girls.  Boys like “how to” books read to them—how a car engine works or how a pitcher holds the ball for various throws, for example.  Boys often prefer books with humor or books that show a boy being mischievous.   Boys like science fiction and fantasy.  Boys as young as three might prefer different reading material from girls of the same age.

    Boy telling mother information from a book about turtles

    Click on image to enlarge it.

  • Girls like fairy tales more than boys.  Many fairy tales have girls as the main subjects—Cinderella, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.  Don’t be surprised if boys are bored by fairy tales.  Fairy tales originated in a time without bikes, jets, video games and Angry Birds.  Fairy tales can seem pretty dull to a three-year-old who regularly plays games on a smart phone or on wii.
  • Boys like visual aids to help understanding—a diagram of how an elevator works, photos of Hurricane Sandy, or cartoons, for example.  They may prefer to have nonfiction read to them more than girls do.  They like manuals and the diagram directions for Legos.
  • Boys like to see boy characters, or if not boys, then men they might want to become when they are big.  A boy who likes flying might enjoy a book about a sixteen-year-old boy learning to fly.  A four-year-old boy beginning baseball practice might like books about boys playing baseball or a biography of a slugger like Babe Ruth when he was a kid.  Boys want boy characters doing boy things, just as girls want girl characters doing all things.
  • Boys like fiction crammed with action.  They like books heavy on plot and low on emotion.  Girls like these books too, but they also like books about relationships more than boys do.
  • Boys like books with useful knowledge they can share with other boys, the kind of knowledge other boys will find appealing.  “Hey Grandpa!  Do you know the first team that ever won a Super Bowl?  I do.”

If you are reading this blog, you are probably a mother or female teacher of young children.  Your first choice of material to read to your child may not be the same as a little boy would choose.  If your child is interested in science, maybe reading an article in National Geographic or Popular Mechanics makes sense.  You don’t have to read books.  Magazines and newspapers are fine.  The daily Charlie Brown or Garfield comic might appeal more than a “Jack and the Beanstalk” story.

Boys love technology.  Figure out his passions and search for information on the internet.  Even if he can’t read yet, he will recognize that reading would be a useful skill to access information he loves.  Or help him write an email to someone and then help him to read the response.  Boys like useful reading.

Lastly, can you get Dad or Grandpa or another man to model reading?  If a boy sees the girls and women in his life reading, but not the teen boys or the men, he might think that reading is not a boy’s activity.  Try to get a man to read to your child regularly.