I fell in love with my iPad the second I downloaded my first app, but I was skeptical about reading books on it. I'd always said there was just something about having a book in my hands that I really enjoyed. Yet, I was wrong. Very wrong. I loved being able to turn the light off at night to read, I loved having it everywhere I went, and most of all, I loved not having to go to the book store. I could download a book at 9:45 at night and start reading right away.
I kept this up for several months and pretty much gave up paper books all together. However, I started to notice something disturbing. Every time I offered to read a book to my daughter she said she didn't want to. All the books she had loved for so many years started to lay on the book shelf for days at a time. She even started to run away when I would try to gather her in my lap with a stack of books. At first, I thought it was just a phase. She was probably just too busy to want to sit down with me. As a three-year-old, she was running around constantly. I kept trying and after several months of this, I had to face that this wasn't a phase. It was possible that it was something deeper and I knew I needed to figure it out. Research shows how important it is for young kids to read books every day before Kindergarten, and my daughter wasn't doing this.
A Three-Month Experiment
I consulted Susan Case, author, blogger, and former Kindergarten teacher. She suggested I start a three-month experiment, in which I would give up my iPad and go back to the printed word to see if my daughter noticed. According to Susan, there are three important reasons that going back to reading the printed word might help my daughter:
1. Kids are great imitators. They like to do what their parents are doing, especially their Moms. By never showing your children that you like to read real books, you run a great risk. They don't know what you're doing on there. For all they know, you're playing games.
2. Research shows that comprehension is lower when children read with e-readers. Perhaps they are distracted with the lighting, ways to move around the book, and options for playing games. Young children need large print when they are learning to read and books with great illustrations. They need a collection of printed books that they can claim ownership and read over and over. And the lighting, flashing gadgets, and options may make it more difficult for children to relax and go to sleep if they read with e-readers before bedtime.
3. Children learn by using their five senses and movement. They need to turn a book's pages, touch the textures (like a book about animals with different materials) and play with gadgets – pulling, twisting, exploring the book's concept. Visiting a library can be a wonderful experience for children opening their eyes to a huge variety of books. Many libraries have Kids' Time with puppet shows, visiting authors or a Critterman, and crafts to coincide with a book theme.
So, with Susan's words in mind, I put away my iPad. I still checked it at night after they went to bed because hey, a girl needs her email, her blogs, and her People magazine! But I also went to the library and got some books too.
"Mommy, please read to me!"
I didn't notice a difference at first. She still pushed me away whenever I wanted to sit down with her, but the turning point was when we went on our beach vacation. My husband and I took turns playing with the kids in the sand so the other one could enjoy some relaxation. During my breaks, of course I read my book. In the afternoons, I also read my book. Usually, she went out on the porch and played with her dolls or with the toys we had rented for the condo. But one afternoon, she was headed outside on the porch and she said, "Mommy, will you come with me and read your book out here?"
It was a fun break-through moment. The interesting thing to me is that she noticed that I'd been reading a book. And she saw how much I'd been enjoying it. From that point forward, she really did start to enjoy books again and by the end of the three months, she begged me to read books during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Visiting the library has become one of her new favorite things and she doesn't just play there. She actually picks out books and looks through them before deciding on which one to take with her. I am thrilled to see what a difference my experiment made, and now that she knows how much I like books, I feel like I can go back to reading on my iPad occasionally — though I do try to change it up and read real books too.
For more ideas on getting your kids interested in reading, you can check out Susan and Katie's new book, The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn
. This is a unique book, where they give both the mom and the teacher perspectives and share hundreds of ways to keep kids busy and also get them interested in learning and developing important sensory, fine motor, and gross motor skills.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.