Helping kids get going on e-books: The wrong approach could HURT them

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E-books and a well-stocked national digital library system could be godsends for the family literacy—a point I’ve brought up in the past few weeks. But could part of this mean training for parents, so they teach their kids to e-read properly? Trying to get young children to read off e-books could harm them in some cases if parents don’t use the right techniques. Control-freaking could kill off curiosity. Same for e-books that force children to use them in a certain way.

In a related vein, see Chris Meadows’ just-published article at TeleRead, a site I founded. I couldn’t agree more about the need to engage a child with a discussion of the actual subject matter, a genuinely two-way conversation, I might add—as opposed to obsessing on all the side details, be they hardcore-technical or ergonomic. And, yes, the kinesthetic experience counts. Perhaps part of training for parents should be about, "When to let go?" I don’t think the basic ideas would take that long to impart: perhaps even an online video would do the trick—a list of simple dos and don’ts. I’d welcome thoughts from teachers and librarians reading this.

Teaming up with schools of education and library science, as well as scholars in other disciplines, a national digital library system could help determine what works—and spread around the related lessons for parents and others. Appreciation and absorption of e-books, not just selection and distribution, should be a major focus if libraries are to distinguish themselves from bookstores.

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