What with so much contradictory information concerning the effects of tablets and electronic devices on children, parents often find themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea. There is growing concern that children today have become “addicted to tablets” and smartphones, so much so that it can have a negative impact on their social and fine motor skills. Yet, you wouldn’t want your kids to lag behind their peers and be denied access to a set of skills which is vital in today’s society.
The answer lies, as it often does, in moderation. There is nothing inherently ominous about tablets as such; they are merely tools which lend themselves to a variety of uses. It’s your job as a parent to prevent overexposure and oversee your kid’s interaction with such devices, rather than rely on a tablet as a means to keep your child entertained while you’re busy doing something else. If used wisely, tablets can not only nurture your child’s “technological intelligence“, but they might also contribute to sparking their interest in reading.
Here are 8 ways in which you can use tablets to encourage your child to read.
1. Read to and with them.
Try to set aside time for your child on a daily basis and allot a portion of that time to reading. Alternate “traditional” books and books in digital format, so s/he can be exposed to both media from an early age. Start by reading to your child, involving them in the story, and gradually build up to reading with them, drawing them into the physicality of reading. Once your kid receives his first tablet, encourage them to see it as a useful tool rather than a substitute for human interaction.
2. Keep it fun.
Make this a ritual rather than a chore, something that the child can look forward to. A tablet’s touchscreen technology and in-built book enhancement features can help you make this experience more enjoyable. However, you should also use more traditional strategies of drawing your child into the story, such as acting out the characters and building suspense. Foster your child’s curiosity and imagination, encouraging them to ask questions and make guesses as to how the story will unfold.
3. Give them reading options.
Give your child an option between having the story read by you or a narrator and between reading it themselves, with your assistance. You can take advantage of features like word highlighting and the possibility to touch a word to hear its pronunciation.
4. Keep “bells and whistles” to a minimum.
If you do it right, interactivity can work wonders in drawing reluctant readers into the world of books. However, bear try not to overdo it. Choose book apps that provide a reading experience closely modeled on traditional reading, in which enhanced features serve to “spice up” the experience, but don’t distract your kid from the main course – the story as such.
5. Practice what you preach.
Teaching by example is much more effective than merely extolling the virtues of reading. Children love to mimic adult behavior, so your child might be much more well-disposed towards reading if they see you engage in reading on a regular basis as well. However, make sure you use parental control restrictions to keep unsuitable reading material out of the reach of children.
6. Back to the classics.
We all have our childhood favorites, stories we cherish and have carried with us into adulthood. Even if that old battered copy of a beloved tale might be lost in some attic, you can revisit it in digital or audio format and share its magic with your child.
7. Embrace comics.
Comics are yet another great way to spark your kid’s interest in reading. In fact, a growing number of teacher and educators are beginning to use comics and graphic novels in the classroom as a tool for building reading skills. Tablets such as the Nook give access to a generous collection of digital comics from Marvel and DC Comics, some of which will certainly appeal to your child.
8. Give them a choice of reading material.
There are a number of resources available, such as Moms with Apps and Digital Storytime, which can help you find age-appropriate material for young learners. However, as soon as your child is old enough to voice a preference, get them actively involved in the choice of books and stories they would rather read or have read to them. Offer them a wider range of reading material to choose from – adventure or fantasy books, history or science books retold for children – and build on the topics you find they are more keenly interested in. By getting children involved in the decision-making process, you will encourage them to become personally invested in the practice of reading rather than perceive it as something imposed on them.