Digital Books for Children


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Parents, Teachers, and Librarians worldwide are observing children interact with new technology, such as computer tablets. How should the modern child's love of digital content affect lesson plans? Do kids still want to read paper books? Follow the research, and add your comments.

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  • Photo by Silvia K. SpivaLogo by San Jose State University
  • Photo by Silvia K. SpivaTraditional paper bookWHY I CHOSE THIS TOPICAs a parent, it has been an always entertaining, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding experience watching my child learn to read. Now, that my son is old enough to go to school, I am partnering with his classroom teacher, and with his school librarian, to help him complete reading assignments.All of us (librarian, teacher, parent) are also encouraging him to read books just for fun. Sometimes he reads traditional print books, and sometimes he reads eBooks.
  • Photo by Silvia K. SpivaTechnology in the classroomWHY IS THIS TOPIC IMPORTANT?If the purpose of formal education is to prepare students for a future of independence, the classroom should introduce some of the technology that may be found in the workplace.Learning to use technology, including digital books, is not the goal in itself. The ultimate goal is for children to become adults who can:Think critically,Create,Solve problems;And collaborate.“Today’s children are growing up in a world full of digital information, which makes it even more important for them to know how to analyze, interpret and understand complex texts, to separate fact from fiction, and to develop a deep respect for logical thinking.”Richard RobinsonChairman, President and Chief Executive OfficerScholastic, Inc.
  • Photo by Silvia K. SpivaFavorite books of childhood: Nancy Drew mysteriesTHE RESEARCHWhat does it show?Children make a clear distinction between reading material that is assigned to them, and content that they choose to read on their own.Children don’t focus on whether the book is in print or digital format. They focus on content.
  • Photos and graphs by ScholasticKids & Family Reading Report, Fourth EditionKey findingsCHILDREN’S READING HABITSAs digital reading devices become more widely available, less expensive, and easier to use, more children are starting to read electronic books, or eBooks.Children prefer eBooks when they are more secretive about what they are reading. To an observer, the back of a digital reading device, such as a Kindle, does not reflect what the child is reading.Children also prefer reading eBooks while traveling, because portable devices give them access to multiple books.However, children still enjoy books that are made out of paper. They have a preference for print books when they want to share a story with peers. Some research even indicates that many children still prefer reading print books, as a reward at the end of their day.
  • Photos and graphs by ScholasticHardware (eReaders) used by children to access digital books (eBooks)DIGITAL READING DEVICESWhile the desktop computer may allow access to the Internet, and other digital media, it does not allow children the freedom of movement they enjoy while using other devices.Laptop computers may have the same digital interface as desktop computers, but because they are portable, children can carry them and use them with more flexibility.The tablet computer, such as Apple’s iPad or Microsoft’s Surface, is a favorite of children. Increasingly, libraries and schools are trying to make reading tablets available to their young readers. Children who are fortunate enough to have a tablet computer at home, can read digital books whenever they choose. However, initial set-up and download of digital books, still requires help from an adult.
  • Photo by Silvia K. Spiva. Children’s section at the Cupertino Library, California.WHAT ARE SOME BEST PRACTICES FOR BUILDING DIGITAL LIBRARIES?Simplicity, attractiveness, and search are important features when designing a library, no matter the age of the reader.When it comes to libraries for children, images are very important, because the child who needs directions may not yet have learned to read.When it comes to digital libraries for children, the designer should avoid using traditional search and navigation icons found in most websites and software programs. Research has shown that adults find those icons useful mainly because they have past experience with them. Children look at everything with fresh eyes, so don’t assume that a time-tested image will make sense to a child.Ideally, the website, software program, or mobile application designer should consult with children during the design and test phases.
  • Image from Storia app for iPad shelfSIMPLICITYAs an example of simplicity, let’s take a look at the Storia app for iPad.While the app itself is easy for children to use, setting up the child’s reading shelf takes a significant investment in time and money by an adult. The librarian, classroom teacher, or parent needs to first purchase each book from the Scholastic website, then download the book to the Storia app on the child’s device, and continuously manage the storage space being used on the device by the books, which include graphics, sound, and even a dictionary. While book ownership is tied to a Scholastic account, and a record of books purchased is stored in “the cloud”, the number of books that can be downloaded to the device is limited by that device’s storage capacity.Nevertheless, this really is a model of simplicity, and children navigate the app. intuitively, using easy to understand icons and simply-worded prompts.
  • Image from Bibliothéquenumérique des enfants – Salle de lecture entranceATTRACTIVENESSThere are not many free web-based digital libraries available for children. Of those libraries that are available on the Internet, many of them are difficult to navigate. If complicated navigation, including reading, is required on a website, the child who is learning to read cannot make use of these resources on their own. If children can’t do something by themselves, it is difficult to hold their interest.The reading room of the Bibliothéquenumérique des enfants is attractive, and includes many elements that children consider fun: whimsical sounds, moving images; colorful characters. In addition to providing free scanned copies of digital books, this website also invites children to take quizzes, and play games.
  • Image from International Children’s Digital Library page in EnglishSEARCHThe International Children’s Digital Library was designed by children, for children.Researchers observed, interviewed, and even made crafts with children while trying to understand how children search.Adults have pre-conceived methods for organizing an retrieving information:Parents may look for books based on the child’s gender,Teachers may organize books based on grade level;Librarians may make important distinctions between fiction and non-fiction.Children, however, focus on topics and characters, such as dinosaurs, dragons, tigers, unicorns, and princesses. They may not understand the difference between historical or fantasy characters. They just want to read a good book. Sometimes, they just want to read a book in their favorite color. As you can see in this screenshot, the user can search by color of the book cover.
  • Photo by Silvia K. SpivaCupertino Library Tech ToolbareREADERS ARE MULTIPURPOSEBring your own device (BYOD) is a phenomenon taking place from home, to school, to the library, to the workplace. Young students who become familiar with technology by reading digital books about dragons today, may find themselves using similar devices, search and reading methods in the future, at university or even the workplace.
  • Image from Brainpop.com featured movieMULTIMEDIAWhere does an eBook begin and end? What if it includes moving images, sound, or even alternative endings to a story based on the readers choices?Digital libraries for children are increasingly becoming rich in multimedia. What originally started as a digital book, becomes more like a movie when movement and sound are added. At the same time, a movie can become like a book, if there are options for closed captioning, and links to related resources.Digital libraries for children need not be limited to the adults’ definition of a book.
  • Photo by Silvia K. SpivaFreedom to readWHAT DO PARENTS, TEACHERS, AND LIBRARIANS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DIGITAL BOOKS FOR CHILDREN?Children don’t define books the way adults do.Children want to read fun stories, whether they are in print or digital format.Children like to make their own choices. Build them a library, and let them choose the book.
  • Digital Books for Children

    2. 2. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N WHY I CHOSE THIS TOPIC I’m a Mom. My passion for education and commitment to children’s literacy stem from my curiosity about the future. 2013 @silviakspiva 1
    3. 3. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N WHY THE TOPIC IS IMPORTANT “The value-added of education has shifted: With information and thus knowledge at everyone’s fingertips, the premium we must seek from education is skills – literacy and numeracy to be sure, but also twenty -first century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving and collaboration.” - B e c k e r, S . ( 2 0 1 1 ) . A s k , d o n ’ t t e l l : Can it work for K-12? On the Horizon, 1 9 ( 3 ) , 2 2 6 - 2 31 . 2013 @silviakspiva 2
    4. 4. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N SUMMARY OF THE RESEARCH Parents, educators, and librarians around the world are observing differences between how children choose to read for fun, and how they are expected to read for academic assignments. “A highly literate child is not necessarily a reading child and, similarly, not every child with reading dif ficulties will dislike reading .” - 2013 Brock , A. & Rankin, C. (2013) Library service for children and young people: Challenges and oppor tunities in the digital age. London, UK: Fac et Publishing . @silviakspiva 3
    5. 5. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N CHILDREN’S READING HABITS 2013 Scholastic . (2013). Kids & Family Reading Repor t , Four th Edition. R e t r i e v e d f r o m h t t p : / / m e d i a r o o m . s c h o l a s t i c . c o m / f i l e s / k f r r 2 01 3 - w a p p e n d i x . p d f @silviakspiva 4
    6. 6. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N DIGITAL READING DEVICES 2013 Scholastic . (2013). Kids & Family Reading Repor t , Four th Edition. R e t r i e v e d f r o m h t t p : / / m e d i a r o o m . s c h o l a s t i c . c o m / f i l e s / k f r r 2 01 3 - w a p p e n d i x . p d f @silviakspiva 5
    7. 7. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N BEST PRACTICES FOR BUILDING DIGITAL LIBRARIES “User interface in a children digital library is similar to a traditional library entrance.” “Simplicity, attractiveness, being easy to understand, and of fering search facilities are the most important criteria which must be considered in designing a children user interface .” - G i l v a r i , A . , N o o s h i n f a r d , F. & S e d i g h i , Z . ( 2 0 1 3 ) Children digital libraries and user interfaces: Proposing a set of criteria. International Journal of Information Science & Management 11(2), 59-75. 2013 @silviakspiva 6
    8. 8. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N EXAMPLE: SIMPLICIT Y Storia app for iPad, by Scholastic /storia  Requires book purchase and download by adult.  Internet connectivity is needed for initial download, but once installed on device, books can be read of fline. 2013 @silviakspiva 7
    9. 9. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N EXAMPLE: ATTRACTIVENESS Bibliothéque numérique des enfants – Salle de lecture index. php  Music and moving images are entertaining.  Exploration requires ability to read (in French)  Internet connectivity required to move from book to book, and from page to page. 2013  Flash design, not for iPad. @silviakspiva 8
    10. 10. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N EXAMPLE: SEARCH International Children’s Digital Library w w w . c h i l d r e n s l i b r a r y. o r g  Internet connectivity required to move from book to book, and from page to page.  Search categories and icons designed by children for children. 2013 @silviakspiva 9
    11. 11. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N MULTIPURPOSE Make reading fun! “As a result of the decreasing interest in reading and the growing appeal of computers, it has been suggested that the electronic environment is becoming more important to the growing number of children who do not respond well to traditional print media and who are reluctant to read.” - 2013 @silviakspiva Maynard, S. (2010). The impact of e-books on young children’s reading habits. P u b l i s h i n g R e s e a r c h Q u a r t e r l y, 2 6 ( 4 ) , 2 3 6 - 24 8 . 10
    12. 12. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N MULTIMEDIA Beyond the digital book, children use digital reading devices to learn through multisensory experiences what they want, when they want.  Sight  Sound  Touch 2013 @silviakspiva 11
    13. 13. D I G I TA L B O O K S F O R C H I L D R E N CONCLUSION Children prefer to read what they want, when they want. Parents, teachers and librarians need to provide children with ready -to-read content (print or digital), and then give them their space. 2013 @silviakspiva 12
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