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Parents take to print books in digital age

Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, July 27, 2013 11:36 p.m. CDT
(Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com)
Krystle Martin (left) reads a book to her daughter, Kahlen, 2, at their Richmond home Friday. Martin prefers reading print books with her daughter since she herself grew up reading the traditional way and it allows her to have some exclusive bonding time with her daughter.

RICHMOND – In today's digital world, Krystle Martin still appreciates that moment when she can sit with a printed children's book in her lap and bond with her young daughter before bedtime.

The feeling of the pages, the vividness of the illustrations and the personal time it creates with her 2-year-old daughter, Kahlen, can't be replicated with touchscreens and mobile applications, Martin said.

Most would expect Martin at 21 years old to be immersed in a technological world where tablets, smartphones and electronic readers reign supreme. The Richmond mother instead has stocked Kahlen's shelves with children's books, both new and old, for Kahlen's nightly routine, which involves a bedtime story before the lights are shut off.

"If she is on an iPad, it's her playing by herself," Martin said. "If she has a book, it's Kahlen and mommy time. It's bonding time when we sit and read together."

Kahlen on occasion can get her hands on an iPad, but she watches movies and plays games on it. Krystle and her husband, Chris Martin, downloaded a children's book application, but Kahlen wouldn't use it, preferring story time with her mom.

The Richmond couple are not alone in exposing their developing child to the printed page over the digital screen.

The Pew Research Center surveyed nearly 3,000 parents with children 18 years and younger and found that more than nine in 10 parents said it was important for their children to read print books, according to the May study.

Roughly 81 percent of those parents said a printed book is better to read with a child than an e-book. At the same time, parents who have younger children at home are more likely than other adults to have Internet access, computers, smartphones and tablets, the study found.

Those findings didn't surprise Lauren Rosenthal, who is accustomed to seeing parents and their children occupy the love seats scattered throughout the youth services department at the Crystal Lake Public Library with a traditional book in hand.

The youth department saw a record last year with 400,000 checkouts, including 270,000 print books. Downloadable items such as electronic books are tracked separately, Rosenthal said, adding that the department's printed materials remain in high demand.

"Small children have no constraints on a book. The vividness of the ink, the details and the art and illustrations loses something in an electronic book," said Rosenthal, who heads the youth department. "It's like taking the Mona Lisa and shrinking it down to fit the iPhone. It's not the same Mona Lisa."

Of the nearly 754,200 total items circulated last year at the Huntley Area Public Library, 93 percent represented traditional books, while 4 percent represented e-books, communications coordinator Leigh Ann Porsch said.

But e-book checkouts increased by 70 percent alone from 2012, a trend that is expected to escalate in the future, Porsch said.

Gilberts resident Jay Archambeau owns an Amazon Kindle e-reader, computer and smartphone, but his 3-year-old son rarely uses the technological items for reading. The two instead block a portion of their night for traditional story time that features children's books such as the illustrative "Little Blue Truck."

"The appreciation of paper quality, printing quality and even the experience of the tactile form of a book is kind of lost with e-readers," Archambeau said. "Pop-up books, you can't have that with an e-reader."

Parents valuing print in the digital age

• More than nine in 10 parents say it's important to them that their children read print books.

• 81 percent say it is "very important" and an additional 13 percent say it is "somewhat important."

• 81 percent of American adults who have read both print and e-books think print books are a better option than e-books when reading with a child.

• 23 percent of Americans ages 16 and older read an e-book in 2012 (up from 16 percent in 2011).

Source: Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project

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