E-books or Print Books? What is Best for Your Child?

EbookE-books or print books? What is best for your child in terms of related conversation, literacy, and story comprehension? I have pondered this question myself many times because e- books are so easily accessible today and there are so many to chose from! I have always gravitated towards print books because I love the experience of reading a printed book. I also think that for children, they need that experience holding a book, turning the pages, etc. I am not alone in this particular perspective. According to the Pew Research Center Internet and Library Services Survey (October-November 2012), 81% of parents in the study say it is “very important” that their child read print books.

I wanted to take a deeper look at how a child learns from an e-book vs. the print book according to recent research. For this month on Research Tuesday, I chose a QuickReport completed at The Joan Ganz Cooney Center by Cynthia Chiong, Jinny Ree, Lori Takeuchi and Ingrid Erickson. The study compared print books, basic e-books and enhanced books and how they each affected parent-child conversation, story comprehension and engagement. The QuickReport included 32 pairs of parents and their 3-6 year old children. Each parent read a print book and an e-book together. Half of the pairs read a print book and a basic e-book. The other half read a print book and an enhanced e-book.

What is the difference between a basic e-book and an enhanced e book? Well, here is the answer….a basic e-book is a simple digital version of the print book. An enhanced e-book is a multimedia experience with special features which can be music, movements, etc.  The study looked at content related actions such as labeling, pointing, and conversation regarding the story with a print book, e-book and enhanced e-book.

What were the results? It is pretty interesting.

Parent Child Conversation: With both types of e-books, there was an increase in unrelated conversation than with the printed book. For example, a child had increased conversation about device related features then the actual story with the e-book. What was the least efficient in this area? Enhanced e-books. These enhanced e-books tend to be more distracting so it makes sense that a child would talk more about the features, than the story.

Story Comprehension: Children who read the enhanced e-books recalled fewer details about the story than the basic e-book or print book. This can be primarily caused by having conversations that may be unrelated to the story. However, when asked about critical elements in the story, children performed equally in this area with the e-books and printed book.

Engagement: When looking at overall engagement, 63% of pairs were as engaged reading the print books as they were when reading both types of e-books. Only 6% were more engaged with the e-book than the print book, versus the 31% of pairs that were more engaged with the print books than the e-book.

What does this mean for you and your child? If you want to work on conversation, reading comprehension and story comprehension, use basic e-books or print books. Let your child have fun with enhanced e-books which can help engage a child in reading but don’t expect it to be the same experience like with a basic e-book or print book. From my perspective, a basic e-book can still be more distracting than a print book if your child uses the iPad, smart phone or electronic device for gaming. Whenever I have sat down with my own children reading e-books, they turned the pages quickly and got more distracted than with a print book. This has been my experience, but each child is different.

In conclusion, basic e-books and print books are most effective if working on story comprehension, conversation and engagement. If you want your child to have fun and explore a book, use an enhanced e-book.

I would love any comments, so please share your own experiences and opinions! For more information on Research Tuesday, click here.


Chiong, Cynthia, Jinny Ree, Lori Takeuchi, and Ingrid Erickson. “QuickReport: Print Books vs. E-books.” Joan Ganz Cooney Center. N.p., Spring 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2014.



  1. Love this! I have always been a fan of print books over e-books. Now I have a research to back up my preference! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Virginia!


  1. […] E-books or Print Books? What is Best for Your Child? Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her blog to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. […]

  2. […] This book is now available as a basic e book but will be available as a printed book and on iTunes as an app in the near future. I enjoyed the basic e book because it kept my children focused on the story. To learn more about basic e books versus enhanced e books, click here. […]

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