Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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English 225
Think Piece 3
Winter 2013

Reflecting on Hanna's Explorations Project:
New Media in Children's Literature

For my third and final think piece I wanted to do something different, but found myself thinking about Hanna’s explorations project about new media in children’s literature.  I found myself questioning whether or not there was really truly value in e-books for my children.  I wondered as was brought up in her presentation, if my youngest son would get distracted by the games and interactive portions of the story and whether or not this really “counted” as reading. 

We are definitely a family that is exposed to and immersed in digital technology; between us we have an Xbox, PlayStation 3, Wii, 4 IPods, 2 Nooks, 1 IPad, 3 smartphones and 2 televisions.  After writing that, I feel that I also have to say we have 2 giant book cases full of books in the living room and in my kids’ rooms as I write this there are no less than 4 books in each room that they have recently read or are currently reading.  So we are no stranger to reading both the paper copy of a book and the electronic form of a book.  When my oldest went to see D.J. MacHale a couple years ago at Village Books, he had not only his paper copy of the book signed by him; but also his Nook.  So at the start of Hanna’s project I was already sold on new media in children’s literature: my oldest son got an original Nook for Christmas when he was 10 years old and read countless books on it.  When my daughter was 9 she received a Nook Color for Christmas and again read numerous books on it.  We loved the ease of access to new books.  If my children wanted a new book, we didn’t need to traverse to the library or bookstore.  We could purchase the book and have immediate access to it.  There was one downside that I found to the Nook Color, I found I had to watch my daughter in the evenings after she read she would get on Netflix and watch movies.  This became a problem when it interfered with bedtime, although this was a quickly remedied problem and in my opinion didn’t take away from the value of having an E-Reader.   So despite our minor problem with new media in children’s literature, I really felt like it was a good choice for our family and didn’t feel like I had any questions left to be answered; I was wrong.  I worried that there could be too many distractions for my youngest son to really get any value out of reading on some sort of E-Reader.

With this question in mind, I downloaded a couple “free” interactive books on the iPad for my youngest son Jaden who is six.  Jaden has always been immersed in media having siblings who are so much older than him.  Keeping him away from media in all forms would be near impossible.    Despite this, the books he has read and been exposed to have been traditional paperback, picture or early chapter books.  With this in mind, I tried to pick some that had some relevance in his life; so I picked an abridged picture book version of Wizard of Oz, (his teacher is reading the “chapter” book to him in class as he calls it), Alice in Wonderland, & Cinderella (a favorite from when  he was a toddler/preschooler).  These were all the pop up style that were interactive, you could read the story yourself, have the story read to you and all of the pages had some form of interaction available with the reader.  I sat down with him one afternoon this weekend and told him I had found him more stories like The Night Before Christmas (an interactive book we read together on Christmas Eve); he was excited as he sat down with me to read.  I let him take the lead as he opened each story.  He started with Wizard of Oz, since he’s currently reading that in school.  He chose to have the story read to him by a narrator.  One thing I didn’t like about this particular book was that you could choose to have the words recessed into the margins so you were truly listening to the story without following along.  He listened to the story and touched the characters on the page to see what they would say.  He also got distracted by the games at different points within the story.  Although they were all educational games of a sort, matching, counting, sorting and puzzles.  He also took time to tell me the differences between this story and the one his teacher was reading to him.  He finished the story and eagerly started another.  Each one like the last, he would enjoy listening to the story and interacting with the pages it really seemed to bring the story to life for him.

Items on page can be touched for sound or action

Drop-down game menu

As a parent looking at the overall experience of my child reading an e-book, I feel like it was a positive experience for us both.  Yes, my son did get distracted by the games in the story, but the games all pertained to the story he was hearing and reinforced other aspects of his learning such as counting and spatial reasoning.  My son also was able to “read” three books and enjoy listening to a story.  He connected to the characters in each story and couldn’t wait to go back to school on Wednesday to hear more from the “chapter book” Wizard of Oz that his teacher was reading to him. 

I feel like for our family this really did count as reading.  There are times I am too busy to sit down and read with him, and I would much rather that he is able to pick up a book on the nook or iPad and listen to, read or interact with it rather than playing a game on the Xbox, PS3, or Wii.  As with everything in parenting and life, it’s about balance and finding that balance that is right for your family.  Later that night, my youngest came to me and asked if we could read together again, and brought me his paper copy of Vacation Under the Volcano by Mary Pope Osborne.  We read two chapters together, he and I taking turns, and I was happy that so much of his day was spent with a story.  So at least for now, whatever form reading might take in our family is fine by me.


Copyright 2013


Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA