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Do Children's E-Books Ruin Reading? 149

Posted by timothy
from the different-nodes-in-the-brain dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A fierce argument has begun over whether children are actually 'reading' new e-books or simply 'watching' them. As publishers pump increasing levels of interactivity into e-books, the New York Times and others argue that these highly-interactive, popular titles are ruining the purpose of reading. The NYT also worries that new e-book titles could distract kids from the tougher task of actually concentrating on literature: '[W]hat will become of the readers we've been: quiet, thoughtful, patient, abstracted, in a world where interactive can be too tempting to ignore?' Others, like Gizmodo, defend these new e-books, pointing at titles like Alice for the iPad, of which they blabber, 'For the first time in my life, I'm blown away by an interactive book design.' But, the NYT counters, 'What I really love [about traditional books] is their inertness. No matter how I shake Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, mushrooms don't tumble out of the upper margin, unlike the Alice for the iPad.'"
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Do Children's E-Books Ruin Reading?

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  • Non-issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidR1991 (1047748) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:12AM (#32146034) Homepage

    Interactive books have been around for decades - books with sliding tabs, sound effects when you press little buttons - those kinds of things. So I don't think e-books along the lines of that Alice one are a problem at all

    What we should be concerned about is interactivity replacing the text rather than augmenting it. That's when it's a problem

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:22AM (#32146088)
      Children + new technology = loss of childhood dreams

      Don't we all know this from episode I?
      • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:40AM (#32146194)

        Children + new technology = loss of childhood dreams

        That's an interesting point.

        Consider this, when you see an image of a character, you're seeing what someone else's imagination came up with on how it looks. For example, how many of you see a movie adaptation of a book only to have them cast an actor that looks nothing like you imagined it?

        With picture books or multimedia or whatever, the authors are replacing the child's imagination with their own. The child may have something better or something they like more or...I don't know.

        I think the picture books or any multimedia system is replacing a child's imagination - it's not active.

        That's why books to movies usually suck: our imaginations are usually better than what Hollywood can come up with - Starship Troopers for one.

        I'm not creative enough on how to explain it further.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Trahloc (842734)
          Sorry, can't resist. Using Starship Troopers as your example of book to movie adaptations is horrible. They're nothing alike, quite literally. It's more of a 'hey this movie resembles this book too much to avoid being sued, lets license it'. I read the book and hated the movie the first time I watched it. Once I realized they had absolutely nothing to do with each other aside from 'bugs in space' I found the movie to be much more enjoyable. Heinlein was brilliant and I can't wait for the day someone ma
          • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:47AM (#32146562)

            Paul Verhoeven said "We always called action movies fascist, so we thought it would be interesting to make a real fascist movie" and that "the point of this movie is that war makes fascists of us all". He said he read part of the book but hated it. Still the society in the movie has the same rules as the society in the book. The fact that he portays that society as fascist means the movie is a satire of the book, and also of the American idea that war can be won without a moral cost for the victors. This last one is a key thing to Verhoeven - films like Black Book show how corrupting war can be, even for the most morally justified side.

            Of course if you have a sense of humour and an ability to see the flaws in plans for utopian society whilst still being able to appreciate the good ideas you can enjoy both. Like Marx Heinlein gets in some good jabs at democratic societies, and like Marx the alternative he suggests would be a nightmare if implemented.

            Still it's interesting that people that believe in Heinlein's blueprint for a society seem to always be viscerally hostile to the movie that satirizes them. That makes me think the movie's point that the society described in the book is fascist has some truth to it. It seems very unlikely that the society that Heinlein describes would allow a movie like Starship Troopers to be made.

            Actually Starship Troopers the movie seems scarily prescient of the War On Terror.

            "Some say that western incursions into the Middle East have provoked the muslims and a live and let live policy would be preferrable"

            "I'M FROM NEW YORK AND I SAY KILL 'EM ALL!"

            Of course, luckily we lived in a good old fashioned democracy with universal suffrage. And democracies are quite happy with films that poke fun at them.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Runaway1956 (1322357)

              "Like Marx Heinlein gets in some good jabs at democratic societies, and like Marx the alternative he suggests would be a nightmare if implemented."

              Alright - first, allow me to point out that Heinlein's world in Starship Troopers represents a relatively stable world, AFTER they emerge from the real nighmare of anarchy.

              But, that wasn't your point, nor is it mine.

              I question whether that "nightmare" of Heinlein's world is any worse than what we have today. I mean, look at the United States. Unemployment is ov

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Hal_Porter (817932)

                If you served in the US military, you swore an oath to uphold the US Constitution. Using force to disenfranchise non veterans - and that is the only way to do it - is not doing that.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Runaway1956 (1322357)

                  The US constitution? In Heinlein's world, the constitution doesn't exist. I'm moving, because I like the laws in his world better.

                  • Well you said you'd served in the US Military. In which you case you swore an oath to uphold the US Constitution. Also using force to overthrow the US constitution is treason if you are a US citizen.

                    E.g.

                    From the book

                    With national governments in collapse at the end of the XXth century, something had to fill the vacuum, and in many cases it was the returned veterans. They had lost a war, most of them had no jobs, many were sore as could be over the terms of the Treaty of New Delhi, especially the P.O.W. foul-up - and they knew how to fight. But it wasn't revolution; it was more like what happened in Russia in 1917 - the system collapsed; somebody else moved in. The first known case, in Aberdeen, Scotland, was typical. Some veterans got together as vigilantes to stop rioting and looting, hanged a few people (including two veterans) and decided not to let anyone but veterans on their committee. Just arbitrary at first - they trusted each other a bit, they didn't trust anyone else. What started as an emergency measure became constitutional practice in a generation or two.

                    "They knew how to fight" implies that they used force to set up their system. Also if this happened in the US they have clearly abrogated the constitution they swore to defend. They have committed treason.

                    Ironically enough what happened in Russia in 1917 was not that "the system collapsed and so

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Lord Bitman (95493)

                It seems that more people get welfare in various forms than actually work in this country

                That's a bit like saying "more people eat vegetables of various types than actually eat meat in this country"

                That is to say, it's horseshit for more than a handful of reasons, and one doesn't even exclude the other to begin with (nor does each "form" exclude other forms, and percentages don't work like that)

                • by extrasolar (28341)

                  Like Medicaid. That's "welfare" according to most people, because if you can't afford to see a doctor then you're the scum of the earth and [i]deserve[/i] to be sick. Other forms of welfare I'm less leniant with, but come on! This discussion makes me sick. The grandparent poster sounds to me like someone who disguises "I deserve more" into "They deserve less." People are pissed off about their own financial problems love to take it out on poor people. Poor people know something about financial problem

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by extrasolar (28341)

                "In our world, here and now, there are any number of people who have more rights than I have, and my service to my country means just about squat."

                Are you going to actually substantiate your outrage or are you going to give us the outrage? This is sounding like an OReilly rant more than anything else.

                So, first, who has more rights than you do? And are you suggesting that your service to your country gives you more rights? What service? Military? I respect military men, but they don't get more rights th

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by BlackBloq (702158)
                Unemployment is at 9.9% in the USA. Not your 20%.
                In October 2009, 70.1 percent of 2009 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities, a historical high.
                ttp://www.bls.gov/
                You should try reading more than science fiction. One state (Arizona) is paralyzed by moronic and unjust laws that the whole USA is freaking out over. If the united states government would have invested all your money into your country's natural disasters and tech and jobs instead of shooting Arabs in some dusty asshole of
                • by FooAtWFU (699187)
                  Well, he's using a broader figure of unemployment than is the norm. Which might be fair, if we were to talk about the normal levels of that figure even when the economy is well.... the "less than 2% unemployment!" figures from the boom days still included a lot of people who were not in the labor force. How come the GP doesn't drag out those numbers to edify us? Then we can discuss the situation in an informed manner instead of a kneejerk one.
                • Did you click the link? shadowstats.com

                  Unemployment is over 20%. Using the very same facts, figures, and formulas that were used for a couple of decades before Bill Clinton took office, the unemployment stands around 22%, right now.

                  First, Bill Clinton changed the formuals, then George Bush changed the formulas again. That 9.9% figure that you are quoting? Lies. Nothing but lies. And, if "official" unemployment figure goes over 10% again, the government will jiggle the formulas again. Care to take a b

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by ultranova (717540)

                I question whether that "nightmare" of Heinlein's world is any worse than what we have today. I mean, look at the United States.

                Yes, waging a genocidal war where billions die on behalf of a military dictatorship and which will likely end with the extinction of at least one intelligent species is far worse than having 20% unemployment rate, social welfare, and even *gasp* illegal immigrants. Any other dumb questions?

                Dunno about the prison thing, thought.

                • The prison thing is hyperbolic too.

                  The US population is about 300 million, 1 in 10 of 300 million is 30 million. There's no way that 30 million people are in jail in the US. There's about 2 million, which is still huge but nowhere near 30 million.

                  Now if you arbitrarily decide to talk only about adult males (why, don't women go to jail?), probably ignore foreign visitors and illegal aliens, then you can start with about 100 million in the population, so 1/10 means only about 10 million people, which is c

              • As far as I know Marx never advocated a "Marxist" state and his contemporary Bakunin predicted many of the problems encountered later by the 20th century disasters.

                Anyway I'm a lot more interested in Lennon.

                Weird thing about Starship Troopers - in the movie the humans seem to be the bad guys. It's a distopian take on Heinlein's trains-running-on-time. Forever War by Haldeman was a response to the Heinlein.

          • by ooshna (1654125)
            Lol ever read The Running Man and then see the abortion of a movie starring Arnold? Running around in tights with some black dude in red with a flame thrower and jet pack. Yep thats how I remember the book going.
        • by Mathinker (909784)

          For example, how many of you see a movie adaptation of a book only to have them cast an actor that looks nothing like you imagined it?

          Like I imagined it? Never mind that. Let's complain about casting someone who is nothing like the author imagined. E.g.:

          Hermione_Granger [wikipedia.org] vs. Emma Watson [wikipedia.org].

          It's been a very long while since I read the first Harry Potter book, but I had the distinct impression that Rowling thought of Hermione as very ordinary-looking, perhaps even a bit ugly, at least here-and-there.

          • Hermione Granger is a Author Avatar [tvtropes.org]. So it's quite OK for her to be as attractive as JK Rowling is rather than as attractive as JK Rowling thinks she is.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          With picture books or multimedia or whatever, the authors are replacing the child's imagination with their own. The child may have something better or something they like more or...I don't know.

          Of course, by the exact same logic, a book is replacing stories and characters the child comes up himself with something the author came up with.

        • by VanessaE (970834)

          Considering the example given in the summary is Alice in Wonderland, your comment, while true to a certain extent, is also rather ironic: Alice herself made it quite clear that she'd prefer books to have pictures if at all possible.

          I took a look at the video link in the summary and I have to say one thing: It's way over-hyped. I mean, come on - the person doing the video did everything possible to make the various little doodads respond, and so violently that I would think any reasonably healthy person w

          • by VanessaE (970834)

            Please ignore the "violently" remark above, I accidentally hit the submit button before I was finished. That should probably read "aggressively" or something a little less severe.

    • I wouldn't worry. In modern society, every time you open your eyes, there's a very strong chance you'll see some text somewhere, be it an advertisement, a book cover, some text on a screen, your cell phone. There's so much text around that children haven't the slightest chance of not learning how to read unless they have some kind of rare medical condition that prevents them. Of course I'm not talking about poor children in Africa here - I'm sure the iPad version of Alice is not much of a problem for them.
    • Re:Non-issue (Score:4, Insightful)

      by illumnatLA (820383) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:00AM (#32146302) Homepage

      I think, like TV, it's all about how the interactive books are used. If the interactive books are used primarily as a babysitter that's a problem.

      However, if the parent is interacting with their child while their child is interacting with the book, it's not really a problem. There's much more going on from a learning standpoint than just learning the words when a parent and a child read together. The social interaction is the important part.

      But... if the 'interactive book' is constantly used as a way for the parents to not have to interact with their child, it will breed the same bunch of moronic mouthbreathers as children who were brought up in front of the TV with little interaction from their parents. (Ok... that's a bit strong, but you know what I mean!) ;-)

      It seems to me that people often forget there's more to education than just memorizing facts and figures. The social aspect is equally important.

    • by JamesP (688957) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:03AM (#32146308)

      Books for wizard kids (Harry Potter) have things that speak and move for themselves and the kids seem to do just fine.

    • by MikeFM (12491)
      My 23 month old has been looking at both real and iTouch/iPad based books since she could sit up. I don't think it's caused any damage at all. She recognizes some letters, words, numbers, and shapes and a lot of random items, can sing much of the ABC song and other kids songs, etc. If anything I'd say she is slightly advanced compared to a lot of other kids. I even let her watch tv and it's hardly destroyed her mind. She especially like Signing Time, Monkey Time, and Dora the Explorer. Along with reading an
  • by SlothDead (1251206) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:13AM (#32146038)

    Why are there no textadventures/"choose your own adventure"-books for the kindle or any other ereader?

    Also, these interactive kiddie books might lead to the kindle 3 being like this: http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1910868 [collegehumor.com]

  • Eh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Securityemo (1407943) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:18AM (#32146064) Journal
    I can only speak for myself, but if you want to read a text, you read it? Any child should intuitively turn the illustrations off, or simply ignore them if they are distracting. Talking about the "pondering abstracted" reader or the "inertness" of books is just silly romanticism, text is text. And as a sidenote, I have ADD; I know the subject of distraction fairly well.
    • by Simulant (528590)

      Any child should intuitively turn the illustrations off, or simply ignore them if they are distracting.

      You obviously don't hang out with young children much.

      • I remember being a young child. But on the other hand, I read a *lot* from the age of five and upwards, so my experiences might not be valid for all children.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      While I agree that the submitter was being a bit romantic in his depiction of the reader, you shouldn't dismiss his ideas simply because of it. One of my favorite elements of reading static text without any added illustrations is you get to use your imagination to fill in the blanks! TV basically just hands you all of the artwork and scenery but when you read, all you get is the jist from the author and it's up to you to weave those descriptions together with your imagination into something.

      Adding all of

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hedwards (940851)
        I couldn't read for a number of years because books are not very well suited to the purposes of actual reading. Between the migraines and difficulty tracking lines on the page, it was pretty much a non-starter. At least with electronic books of various sorts there's ways around that. Whether by changing the spacing to be more appropriate or by making the portion of text stand out more as the page progresses automatically. Perhaps in the future even tracking eye movement to keep things in sync.

        There's alw
    • I can only speak for myself, but if you want to read a text, you read it? Any child should intuitively turn the illustrations off, or simply ignore them if they are distracting.

      While I'd like to agree with you (because personally I do "turn the illustrations off" for myself as well), it doesn't work that way for a lot of (most?) adults, let alone distractable children.

      To take an even more subtle example, I have a lot of academic friends who hate footnotes, particularly those that provide more than a reference. Why? Because they are -- supposedly -- distracting. I would think by the time that a person had achieved a doctorate in the humanities (for example), they'd have enough

  • My 3 month old... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by garcia (6573) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:21AM (#32146080) Homepage

    I don't consider myself a parent with any real life experience, being that I have only been one for 3 months, but I have some observations on how my son interacts with certain physical items in his new world:

    1. He is not permitted to watch TV.
    2. We read books to him a lot.
    3. He listens to a lot of music tailored towards children (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIueuNdB2oM)

    While he has some attention for books, especially ones where my mother recorded herself reading them and we play it for him while he listens, he has an amazing attention span for my iPhone or the TV. He will go out of his way to crane his neck around to look at the TV if it happens to be on (we don't watch much TV) or physically move himself to look at the TV if he is in a device which allows for him to do that.

    I'm guessing that either he's fucking weird (certainly possible considering his parents) or all children love to watch shit. While he gets excited when I come home from work, it's nothing like he gets when he's watching my parents on Google Video Chat. If he's going to feel excited via a particular medium then I say I'm all for it--especially if it helps one particular child learn better than others.

    • by WarwickRyan (780794) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:28AM (#32146116)

      He's three months old.

      Of course the TV's interesting, it's making full of sounds, colours and moving stuff.

      Just buy (or make) him a Hanging Mobile.

    • by denzacar (181829) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:48AM (#32146256) Journal

      Get a foreign language channel with cartoons. Or two. Or three. Languages, that is. Probably at least as many channels as well.

      My cousin was speaking English almost as good as her native language (Bosnian/Serbian) by the time she was 5-6 years old from all the Cartoon Network she watched.
      Basically, she was speaking a foreign language before she learned to read or write.
      She is now studying to be a professor of English.

      Also, when your kid starts to read, don't shun the comics in favor of books.
      If possible, get him some comics in the foreign language he is picking up from the cartoons.
      Amazon has international sites, holding books in the local language. But there are also online communities that scan comics. Even those in "foreign" languages.

      • by Gorobei (127755)

        All good advice.

        Cartoons and comics are designed for kids: simplify the unimportant, expose the cool ideas. They are going to be learning more from a Japanese or Spanish cartoon than from their father reading them a "good" book. My bi-lingual 5 year old still asks to watch Hikaru No Go at times.

        Hell, my oldest kid taught herself to read in a few months from Calvin & Hobbes: once she wanted to know what the joke was, she went from "reading is hard" to "reading is easy" is about 5 hours.

      • by Mex (191941)

        I can vouch for this. I learned to read english from american video game magazines in the 90's.

        I think it worked, except now when I speak I use too many words like "Cowabunga!" and "Rad!"

    • by Sheen (1180801)
      So he gets more excited when he sees two people inside a box! With blinking lights and weird sounds coming from it, then when you enter a door, like everybody else does....
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm guessing that either he's fucking weird (certainly possible considering his parents) or all children love to watch shit. While he gets excited when I come home from work, it's nothing like he gets when he's watching my parents on Google Video Chat. If he's going to feel excited via a particular medium then I say I'm all for it--especially if it helps one particular child learn better than others.

      He's not weird. Or no weirder than normal.

      He likes to look at things, check. He's still learning to see, s

    • by ebuck (585470)

      Attention to Television at this age is a reflex. One that trains his brain to expect more activity than he will encounter in mundane, real life. Don't feed him that much activity unless you want a brain that needs a complete change of scenery every ~1 second to keep an attention span.

      When I was younger, it would be normal for a person to talk to another person on the television for four or five seconds. Now you don't get to see four or five seconds of anything in one continuous shot. It is like the film

  • by denzacar (181829) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:22AM (#32146086) Journal

    Same way picture books [wikipedia.org] have been ruining reading these last couple of centuries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumbel (592662)

      And lets not forget the Gutenberg Bible [cornell.edu], with all those fluffy birds and decorations, who's supposed to concentrate on reading the text?

      If one day all books come in highly interactive forms and every child has an iPad, I might start to worry, but at the moment almost no child has an iPad and fully interactive books are a rarity compared to normal books.

    • by quall (1441799)
      Yah, just like computers have been ruining writing these past couple of decades. Children can barely write cursive if at all. Then one could argue its usefulness. Schools originally taught it as a faster way to write. Also so that children could read useful material that is only written in cursive. Computers have eliminated the need for both of those arguments. It is much easier to type and cursive material has been rewritten in typed-text. Cursive is a depreciated skill. Just like novels inspire imaginat
    • I'm all for picturebooks, popupbooks, e-readers, but in the particular Alice book it's really annoying that things move in the background even if I don't want them to. It's a cheap gimmick without function. (However the artwork is really nice.)

  • by buckhead_buddy (186384) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:35AM (#32146156)

    I see it similar to the Etude music player on the iPhone. It's a MIDI player that highlights the notes on the sheet music and on a simulation of a piano keyboard as the music is being played.

    The Cat in the Hat eBook has several modes, one of which highlights the text as a voice reads the words. Another of which lets the kid touch something in the drawing, says the word and highlights it in the text (if it's in the passage on that page).

    Neither replaces an audio performance (like an iTunes song or an audio book), and neither of which replace the physical static medium (like a piece of sheet music or a book), but both make a nice interactive presentation to help the viewer's brain make the connection of these very different sensations.

  • by syousef (465911) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:38AM (#32146180) Journal

    Tools can be used badly. That's nothing new either. You can use a TV to watch amazing documentaries, or crappy reality TV and "talk" shows like Jerry Springer. Kids can use it to watch garbage, or educational programming.

    Interactive books are no different. They can be inert. They can distract from reading, or they can aid the reading process. There are fundamental differences between paper books and ebooks but blaming the format for poor execution is just weak. Since they can be more complex it becomes harder to differentiate, but that's what you have to do as a consumer....and there's nothing like word of mouth in mothers groups and in the school yard to help in that area.

  • Video games (Score:4, Insightful)

    by digitalderbs (718388) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:40AM (#32146196)
    I got into programming and computers through video games.
  • by at.drinian (1180281) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:44AM (#32146224) Homepage
    Anyone who thinks that interactive books can't be a force for good needs to go read Neal Stephenson.
  • Diamond age (Score:3, Interesting)

    by toxygen01 (901511) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:48AM (#32146248) Journal
    My guess is we're approaching Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age "A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer", at least in terms of technology.
    The Primer also reacts to its owners' environment and teaches them what they need to know to survive and grow
    some more info on his ideas about "mediatrons" as he calls them: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=214 [technovelgy.com]

    e-ink, e-paper, ipad, not only technology changes, but the way people are educated too. now that they will have interactive textbooks, studying is not only going to be faster, but even more fun. anything from physics, chemistry, biology is going to be not only described, but shown. encarta of size of your palm. fantastic.

    indeed, I think some books will be better off left as they are now. the main reason behind this is imagination and fantasy of reader. if you are shown everything, then there is barely some space for you imagination to fire up. it might be fun to roll and twist your ipad, but it might be even funnier to have all those characters shaped up by your imagination instead of imagination of the artist who worked on it. but this applies to less extent than the former case with textbooks. i guess it's great technology to have in overall.
    • No, I don't think it is more fun. I think kids are attracted to interaction, pictures in primary colors, and noises because interaction, pictures in primary colors, and noises is less effort for the reward than imagining it: more fun.
      I think that what's easiest and most fun isn't what children should have. Imagining things that aren't in front of them is a critical skill, as are reading and understanding a description without an accompanying pictures.

      For an analogy, it's easier to smoke pot for a b
  • Next thing you know, they'll start making movies out of these books. Gasp!

  • Seriously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by celibate for life (1639541) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @08:52AM (#32146268)
    I don't know why or how this trend started: to consider human beings (specially children) so delicate and fragile that every minor thing has the potential to ruin someone's mind forever. Traditional reading won't get outdated because it's a very efficient way to get high amounts of information in non-sequential order. So even if your children like to play with animated bleep-bloop books, they will eventually learn to read real books because they will need to. Necessity has been helping individuals and the entire species accomplish things since the dawn of time.
  • Before humans invented written text, we learned by watching and listening. That's what we are programmed to do - watch and listen. Hell, how do we learn to speak? We listen to other people do it, and watch their lips move, and then mimic that as we listen to ourselves try to reproduce those sounds.

    In many respects, interactive audio/visual methods are a more natural way for humans to learn than reading text.

  • by Simulant (528590) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:11AM (#32146348) Journal

    Or do enough kids have iPads now to make this a real concern? (who the hell buys their still learning to read kid an iPad anyway?)

    Based on my own experience, I'd say that audio books (and of course TV) are more of a problem. My daughter has been surrounded by books and read to for her entire 8 years yet she is falling behind in reading. (though she's ahead in comprehension or vocabulary/) She'd prefer to listen to a book than read it herself and we've, regrettably, made this too easy for her to do. Much like TV (which she doesn't watch much of at home.... only on weekends and never live TV with commercials), I now find myself in the position of having to limit her intake of audio books from the library in a bid to motivate her to actually read for herself. I would think that interactive books, as long as they don't read the entire text, are an improvement over the totally passive experience of listening/watching.

    • by b0bby (201198)

      My daughter has been surrounded by books and read to for her entire 8 years yet she is falling behind in reading. (though she's ahead in comprehension or vocabulary)

      Keep at it - my now 4th grader didn't start getting really into reading until 2nd or 3rd grade and now she's voracious - I never thought I'd have to bug her to stop reading! Our 2nd grader hasn't hit that point yet, but she's getting there; I still read to both of them most nights, we go to the library regularly, and I'm sure she'll do just fine. All kids are different, and I wouldn't be surprised if the younger one reads less just because of her personality, but that's ok. One thing that helped with our ol

  • by abhikhurana (325468) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:13AM (#32146362)

    Call me old fashioned but one of the reasons I have always enjoyed reading traditional books is because the author only drops the hints at what the world in the book looks like but I actually paint the complete picture. This is the same reason why most movies based on books don't do well, because it is extremely difficult to compete with what we imagined that world to be in the detail and besides the imaginary world is individual to each reader. No two worlds probably look the same.

    Unfortunately, the more we get into the interactive books which try to replace the written word with pictures (or even the ones which try to augment it), the more would we be limiting our imagination and seeing it from someone else's eyes, which almost certainly would result in less "different" people in the world. Most of us on slashdot are evolutionists and we do appreciate that it is this difference which results in our species evolving. Hell, it could be that Da Vinci etc. probably started looking at flying because they had heard or read fairy tales where humans flew, which then one day was realised by incremental advance in science. So in some ways, we would be limiting our potential by relying more on the visual medium rather than imagining the world.

    • by potpie (706881)
      Consider how long children's books have been heavily illustrated. When I was little I won a "reading award" in my first grade classroom because I always had out this science book. Truth is I was just looking at the pictures and reading the captions. Nevertheless I obviously did learn to read, and I can assure you that seeing pictures as a child ruined my imagination in no way. Think of the vast amounts of data we are presented with every day. There are images, written words, music, speech, on advertise
  • Big surprise. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:33AM (#32146486) Homepage Journal
    Yes, folks, idiotic blather about how to raise a genius has come to the iPad. Ask people who have grown kids: they are who they are. There is astonishingly little you can do to change them. A rich environment beats a poor one, and you shouldn't starve or beat your children. Aside from that, just enjoy knowing them.
  • by mingsy (1807664) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:37AM (#32146506)
    E-books are just a tool to engage those students who would otherwise not read. Start worrying when the kids aren't reading at all.
  • by Bob_Who (926234) <Bob AT who DOT net> on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:45AM (#32146548) Homepage Journal

    If you want a kid to read, you'll have to figure out the Dr.Suess first

    Or just get the deluxe ebooks that are like popping "Shreck II" DVD on the nursery color TV. The nanny cam can read the smelly midget an ebook. After that, reading won't matter as much anymore. .

  • Thinkofthechildren! Technology improves illustrations --> Entire generation rendered illiterate! Soon they'll invent an entire GENRE of new media with moving pictures and sound and no need to read at all! And what will happen then!?
    • by mog007 (677810)

      Well said. Even if books completely vanished next year, there are still tons of ways for children to utilize their imaginations. I also doubt it would lead to illiteracy, because reading is used for more than books.

  • The only problem would be a lack of fidelity, i.e. shitty gray screens, or a like of diversity, i.e. not having access to the whole bookstore or library.

    Alice for iPad is a step in the right direction. Books for kids that age are mostly picture books.

    And iPad itself can represent the full-fidelity of all of the paper books. And electronic books can also enable kids to get access to more books. Not just kids in rich countries.

    We spend too much time talking about this shit and not enough time building. Kudos

    • I saw the demo of the Alice book for iPad, and I think it's very annoying that things move/start to vibrate/fall off when you hold it in a slightly different angle. If I wanted to read it, I surely would turn off the interactive features. Of course it doesn't mean that all interactivity is necessarily bad.

  • by ledow (319597) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:56AM (#32146602) Homepage

    It's always the same "This is slowly killing my child / making them stupid, I want it banned." or something along those lines... just stop your kids doing it. Especially, in this case, because it would be reliant on an enormously expensive piece of hardware in order to operate - they are not going to be sneaking into the bookshops on the way home and picking up an eBook reader illicitly to stop you knowing. If you have doubts about it, stop them doing it and do, I don't know, parent-y things like... erm... encouraging them to read books, praising them when they learn a new word, switching OFF the TV when they've had too much (and no, TV itself isn't bad - don't bring up children who when they hit adulthood are *DYING* to watch TV to see what all their friends are talking about - banning TV outright is just delaying their inevitable obsession with the "forbidden") and saying No to them.

    My child is 18 months. She *does* get transfixed to the television when her favourite program is on. That's why she gets a few hours a week and that's that. Then we switch it off and she doesn't burst into tears because she's not addicted to it. If you have a long car journey, you take two or three books with you - she will spend the *entire* trip engrossed in them, looking at every page, pointing out all the objects that she knows, learning the words for the ones she doesn't and she won't feel "deprived" or "bored" just because she only has books. When she learns to read, though, a habit of deliberately *choosing* a book to take out on a trip with her (as she currently does) will make the transition all that much easier.

    Reading, picture books, comics, TV, radio, interactive software, things scrawled in crayon on the back of scrap paper, they are all just media. If you use them correctly, and proportionally, they all have a role to play in a child's development. If you don't, and just let the kid have completely free choice, of course they will ALWAYS choose the thing that's least effort - TV or some book that "reads to them" so they don't have to do this complicated pattern-recognition thing that dad wants them to do. That's fine occasionally and, yes, occasionally you do have to let them just be kids and have a day off of making them all the "horrible" stuff like learning to read, or tidying their room and so those times they can do things like interactive books and software or just veg out in front of the TV (we all do it, in moderation for the majority of us, so we can't be martyrs here and claim to be perfect and always do everything that we would want our children to see us do).

    Let them have a life, and stop bloody micro-managing their exposure to the world. So long as they are doing the stuff you want them to do elsewhere, let them have their time off. To a child, learning to read is hard work on an enormously difficult but boring task, so after they've had a few hours of doing that give them some time off with whatever they want to do that's not hurting anyone else - video games (the age for violent ones is up to the individual parents, but you will not *turn* them into mass-murderers once they have acquired a sense of right and wrong), building Lego castles, scribbling on bits of paper, making a frame for the TV with tinsel and glue (with your permission), stamping on ants in the garden, whatever, it doesn't really matter. That's their time off, the same way that even university students, or 80-hour-week workers have time off. Just make sure that if you're worried they aren't reading enough, that you give them that TOO, at some other time, and by *your* rules.

  • My cousin has one of those Leapfrog Tag [leapfrog.com] books. These are the ones in which you have a "pen" which can touch various objects on the pages and produce a sound. It's most often demonstrated as having the "pen" read the words that the child touches. However, the child can often touch animals, cars, trains etc etc and have the corresponding sounds. Out of two children, I have never seen them use the book the way that it is intended, they just touch the pictures repeatedly for the sounds. If I want them to r

  • Every adult (including parents and non-parents) seems to have lots of opinions on how best to raise children.

    Here are mine:

    1) Love them

    a) Do not harm them

    2) Protect them

    Everything else is open to interpretation. If you are a parent, teacher, or someone else who has regular contact with children, follow those guidelines and the kids will will mostly be fine (you can't protect them from every danger, nor should you try) - and remember at some point they start making their own choices.

    On the subject o

  • Translation (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dirtside (91468) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @10:32AM (#32146836) Journal

    Translation: "It's new and different, and I'm frightened by it."

  • The "readers we've been: quiet, thoughtful, patient, abstracted" have always been a small minority, but we think everybody should be like us. The ones who want to read will read. Those who don't will get distracted by the shiny. Just like our generation, the generation before us, the generation before that...
  • Time to resurrect Living Books [wikipedia.org] for the iPad. Little tykes would be enthralled by a touch version of Just Grandma and Me [amazon.com] - and learn to read, too!

  • I think this book will do well with the young masses of the ADHD persuasion.

  • Was there the same outcry when pop-up books were introduced?

    Having downloaded Alice for the iPad, it looks more like the app has revitalised Lewis Carroll's work, and made it fresh and interesting for a new audience -- It's certainly a more sensitive and respectful adaptation than the Tim Burton movie.

    Obviously there needs to be a balance between text and images, but I can see parents reading this Alice app to their kids, with the physics-simulations being an attractive bonus to keep them entertaine
  • Aristotle thought books--reading--would be the end of civilization. All civilized folks (like himself) memorized long poems instead.

    Same old same old. Just recently, folks said the web was going to be the end of reading and writing even tho the 'billions of web pages" were all written by people and read by others. They don't spend any time thinking, they just likie to complain, kind of like a Tea Partier drinking the Mad Hatter's koolaid.
  • Years ago I took a course from Dr. Thorburg at MIT, the central thesis of which was that each medium has its limitations. You can criticize the artist, but you can't say that a painter is no good because his painting are not three dimensional. You can't say that television is no good just because it appears in a small window and programs are usually limited to an hour or so.

    TV is not stage, sculpture is not painting, etc. In this case, interactive ebooks will be created within the limitations of the ebook f

  • If I want interactive "reading", I'll use the internet and post a inflammatory remark at slashdot.
  • Repeat after me:

    TV BAD
    BOOK GOOD
    COMPUTER BAD
    EBOOK BAD

    Anyone else notice a problem here? Judging an entire tool with a simplistic value judgment. A book involves learning to read necessarily, while an ebook, computer, or tv are more versatile tools. Sure you can watch trashy TV or play video games (at least a trashy novel is still helping hone reading skills), but you can also watch documentaries or shows that actually involve thinking. A good deal of the non-work time I'm on a computer is reading various new

  • It's all photons - get over it. Only the observer knows how what is being shown is being processed.
  • I'm sure that when books where invented there was somebody that complained that they would ruin the amazing oral narrative tradition. That people wouldn't be able to remember any longer the tens of thousands of verses that anybody could at the time, and that inventive would disappear in a world of fossilized stories. And they were probably even right. So what? Things change, get used to it.

    There is nothing particularly special in books, that will make people grow up really sound-minded. It's not like if tod

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