Screen Time for Story Time: Can Technology Support Our Children’s Reading?

With a plethora of digital apps that claim to be able to support children’s reading, should parents and educators turn to e-books and online resources to encourage their children to read?

However, research has shown that print books tend to be better, especially for younger children. With a physical book, they can touch and smell the book, learn to flip the pages and navigate the different parts of the book. Print also tends to be less distracting than multifunctional smartphones and tablets, which offer other possibilities for passive viewing and play.

Balancing Screen Time and Story Time

Studies have also shown that children who have access to their own home library tend to read more frequently and enjoy reading more. Even if one does not have a large home library, making use of the library’s physical books and help build a rotating home collection.

The Ministry of Health’s Guidance on Screen Use in Children discourages screen time for children under 18 months, one hour for children between 18 months to 6 years old and suggests developing collaborative screen time usage for children aged 7 to 12. More importantly, they highlight the importance of co-viewing or participating rather than using the device as a babysitter.

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Tech-Friendly Reading

Even so, e-books and digital resources are tools that we can minimise but should not avoid completely, especially with older children. Here are five ideas for using digital resources for encouraging children aged 18 months and above to read.

  • Book apps such as EPIC (for English books) and Wawayaya (for Chinese books) curate books for children by age and genre. You can subscribe to these platforms to help your children to find more books they like to read. Children can be taught to use the Read to Me function so they can read the book without the assistance of an adult. When they are more confident, they often skip using this function.
  • Purchase well-designed e-books for your child to read. Animations and games with story- or language-related enhancements are features that enhance a children’s enjoyment and learning. On the other hand, games that do not relate to the story may distract the children from the actual reading experience.
  • Look for free reading resources online. Storyline Online offers classic and diverse stories read by celebrities and storytellers. For example, Simu Liu of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings reads The Sound of Silence.
  • Talk to your children about the e-books you read together. What children remember about the shared book reading experience is spending time with someone they love. Whether reading a physical book or e-book, it’s crucial to set aside dedicated time to read with your child. While a bedtime story is often encouraged as a way to wind down before bedtime, you can read stories anytime of the day.
  • Finally, there’s also the NLB app with a wide range of children’s books available. Teach your child, especially the older ones, how to find books on the NLB app so that they can have access to a wide range of books at their fingertips. If you can afford it, you may decide to invest in an e-reading devices such as the Kobo for as it is a dedicated e-reader which allows access to e-books. Plus, unlike other screens, it doesn’t distract or hurt their eyes.

Keep in mind that at the end of the day, YOU, the parent, are the secret ingredient to ensuring that your children enjoy the process of reading. Continue to nurture your child’s reading habits by putting time aside for reading, making sure your child can find books to read and reading together with your child.

 

 

Written by Loh Chin Ee, an Associate Professor at the English Language and Literature Academic Group at the National Institute of Education, an institute of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.