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  • Writer's pictureJunior Oliveira

Physical books: don't let them disappear

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Hi guys, last month I was trying to help my 7-year-old son with his homework, and I was really impressed by his skills at finding images online; he had to draw a map of Europe in 1215 CE, and he found it by himself, so quickly. This fact made me reflect on how young children nowadays love the mantra "any information is just one click away". This situation also reminded me of when I was introduced to geography (a long time ago in a galaxy not so far away - early 1990s, to be exact); I clearly remember that the most popular book on our class bookshelf was a good, old-fashioned atlas. I loved poring over its pages, looking at the countries with exotic names, checking their interesting flags, and thinking about their landscapes. I have to confess that several of them were the scenes of my imaginary adventures.

Getting back to current reality, I am sure that you (like the majority of mums and dads across the globe) also agreed that using the Internet for homework or educational content helps prepare our little ones for the future, despite admitting that kids are now learning things in a different way to how we learned or to how we looked for information. Let's face facts: society is changing fast, and our kids and their learning habits are no different. As a result, several schools in many parts of the world are making the most of the technology, and to do so, they are using electronic versions of textbooks. Although these e-books offer many significant advantages to readers, I have to say that one of my main concerns is that physical books lose their appeal to our children.

I don't want to sound too old-fashioned or appear to be a "reluctant adopter of new technologies" (because I am definitely not this kind of person: or maybe I am - I just recalled that I've used the same Android phone for 4 years). Anyway, I would like to share with you some reasons for and scientific benefits of reading printed books.

1. By reading a printed book, readers can absorb and retain more information

According to a study conducted by Mangen & Kuiken, those reading printed books absorb and recall more of the storyline than e-book readers. In addition, print readers also scored higher in categories such as empathy and narrative comprehension. This impact is thought to be connected to the physical sense of having a book in your hands.

2 - Printed books also help children to become better readers

One study pointed out that children aged three to five years old reported that when their parents read to them from an e-book rather than a paper book, they had a lesser understanding of the narrative. One possible theory is that the electronic gadget distracts the youngsters, making it difficult for them to focus on the story. Also, students who read a short tale on an e-reader were less interested and had a harder time remembering the exact details.

3- Children who have access to literature at home are more likely to get higher exam scores

It makes no difference how many books you have; each additional book improves a child's academic performance. This is especially true for children from low-income households. Researchers believe this is because having books at home encourages youngsters to read for pleasure and discuss what they've learned with their parents, which can only help them at school.

4- Electronic books can cause screen fatigue

Excessive screen time during the lockdowns, social connectedness and technology dependency (among other factors) have already accelerated people's exposure to prolonged screen time: it's a good idea to rest our eyes whenever possible. Screen tiredness can result in impaired vision, redness, dryness and discomfort when reading electronic books. We don't have to worry about any of that with printed books. According to Feel Good Team, Traditional paper books are probably the best option for your eyes if you want to avoid computer vision syndrome. As long as you're reading in good light, your eyes shouldn't feel too fatigued from printed book.

I truly believe that technology is essential in our lives, but a healthy balance is a key element. Apart from that, there have been several studies about e-books over the last few decades, and they have shown both the advantages and disadvantages of e-books. However, reading a physical book is such a pleasurable thing. I would like to borrow some words from Sam Leithy (the Guardian) to explain this kind of satisfaction: "Memory is a physical thing. It’s bound up with sight and heft and touch and smell. Schoolbooks – be they portals to intellectual delight, the object embodiments of intellectual drudgery, or, as usually, both – are part of the fabric of the experience of school, instant evokers and reminders."

Our role as parents is to empower our children to make smart decisions by navigating the 21st-century information landscape and being able to maximize opportunities to use technology. To do so, we must be up to date with all the topics related to how technology affects children's development: click here to see other posts.

I hope you found this post useful and informative. I really need your support, as this a self-funding project, so I kindly ask you (if you can or if you wish) to please share this post and subscribe to our mailing list!

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Please see the references below:

​photo (credits): <a href=''>Family photo created by pvproductions -</a>​

Mangen, A., & Kuiken, D. (2014). Lost in an iPad: Narrative engagement on paper and tablet. Scientific Study of Literature, 4(2), 150-177.

Feel Good Contacts “Which is better for your eyes: e-readers or print?”​

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