Some region parents prefer real books to tech devices for youngsters

2011-11-25T15:45:00Z 2011-11-26T23:15:05Z Some region parents prefer real books to tech devices for youngstersBy Carmen McCollum, (219) 662-5337

Nothing can replace an old-fashioned book — not an electronic reader such as a Kindle or a computer tablet such as an iPad. There's nothing like the feeling of curling up in a chair with your child to read classics such as "The Night Before Christmas" or "Green Eggs and Ham."

So say many region parents, who freely acknowledge they download books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. But they want their little ones surrounded by books, where they can flip the pages and learn about shapes, colors and animals.

Erica Mason, of Merrillville, a divorced parent of two, said she regularly reads to her son Collin, 7, a Miller Elementary School second-grader, and her daughter Morgan, 3, at Happy Moments Daycare Center in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood.

"I have a computer, and I download books onto it, but I take the children to the library," she said. "They were so excited when they received their own library cards. I read to them. My son will read to us. We sit together as a family. It's a special time for us to be together and bond."

Susan Pearson, Happy Moments Daycare's director, said the great thing about books is they allow teachers to focus on the printed word and work with items such as letters that young children can feel and touch.

"They are learning in three different ways, through touch, hearing and vision," Pearson said. "We're a very technological society, but it will always be important to teach children about books. Children have to learn about which way is right side up, the front of the book, the back of the book, what does the author mean, what does illustrator mean. How do you learn those things without a book?"

Paul Blohm, an Indiana University Northwest education professor, said he loves the library, calling it "one of the best sources in America." In addition to downloading books onto the computer, he said he goes to the library and will check out an audio book to listen to in the car.

"Kindles are great, and iPads are great, but it's nothing like when a baby gets that first sponge book they can put into the tub with them," he said. "They are just able to wrap their hands around it. As they get a little older, they move to a cardboard book, about eight to 10 pages, and they begin to turn those pages. Mom and Dad can begin to teach their youngster how to revere books and respect them."

The other great thing about a book is that it doesn't take batteries — or a sliding rule to maintain your place, Blohm said.

"There is plenty of evidence-based research about how holding, touching and using a book is great for mental and psychological development. Sometimes a youngster's best friend is between the pages of a book," he said.

The Rev. Fred Hooper and his wife, Darla, of Portage, are a technologically advanced couple but say there is something special about picking up a book.

Hooper said what he likes about ebooks is they don't take up space and they're portable, and he can find things in one place. But "there is nothing like the touch and feel of a good book," he said.

Hooper said you can fold the page of a book and underline items of interest. Hooper said he and his wife have read to their three children for many years, and it's nice seeing their 7-year-old twins Matthew and Kathryn and their fourth-grader Jacob able to read stories to them now.

"We all learn in different ways," Hooper said. "Our oldest son, especially, uses the computer for games, and he may look up things from time to time for an assignment. The twins play games on the computer. They use the Wii."

With so much new educational technology, Hooper believes the Kindle will begin setting up more titles for children.

"I was raised on books and flipping the page. ... Books will always be around," he said. "There is just something about a book, about being able to look at your bookcase and point out the books that you've read that gives you a great feeling. It's something visible that you can point to."

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