About ebooks for children
Ebooks are books in electronic format.
Ebooks have words and pictures, just like traditional print books. They can also have interactive elements like recorded narration, music, sound effects, animations, games, inbuilt dictionaries and so on.
You read ebooks on ereaders like Kindle or Kobo, computers, or apps on tablets and smartphones.
Benefits of ebooks
Like print books, well-designed ebooks can help children develop language, social, listening and thinking skills.
Ebooks can also be a different and fun way for children to enjoy reading, experience stories and learn information. For example:
- Illustrations, animations and games can help children understand and recall story details.
- Music can help children understand characters and plot developments.
- Dictionaries and narration can help children learn words and expand vocabulary.
Ebooks can support beginning readers and children who struggle to read independently. These children can listen to narration while they follow the words. They can also use interactive features to better understand stories.
Ebooks can sometimes motivate reluctant readers.
You can start reading print books with babies as early as you like – the earlier the better. But it’s best to avoid ebooks for children under two years. Ebooks are unlikely to have many benefits for this age group and aren’t recommended.
Disadvantages of ebooks
Ebooks can distract children from reading if animations, sound effects and games don’t work well with the text. For example, if ebooks have games that don’t really relate to their stories, children might just want to play the games, rather than read the stories.
Sometimes interactive features can make it harder for children to understand stories. For example, this can happen if there are sounds that don’t relate to the story.
Reading and storytelling with your child promotes brain development and imagination, teaches your child about language and emotions, and strengthens your relationship. That’s why it good to read with your child every day. It’s fine to share a mix of both print and ebooks.
Choosing ebooks for your child: tips
When you’re choosing ebooks for your child, look for the same qualities that you’d look for in print books.
These qualities include:
- well-told stories about things your child relates to or is interested in
- a wide variety of words
- funny, engaging rhymes that help your child learn language
- non-fiction with accurate facts pitched at the right level for your child.
It’s also important to look at features like sound, animation and games. These should work well with the text to illustrate the story and help children understand the story or learn something new.
You can also check whether you can customise the ebook. For example, can you turn off the narration so you can read the book to your child? Or is there a read-only mode so your child can listen to the story without the interactive features?
Reading ebooks with your child: tips
Your child will get the most benefit from ebooks when you read ebooks together. Here are some ideas for reading ebooks with your child:
- Sit close to your child and swipe the pages of the book together.
- Try turning off the narration and read the text to your child first.
- Talk about the story with your child, focus on the bits he’s most interested in and ask open-ended questions – for example, ‘Look, that dinosaur is just like the picture on your wall. How do you think the dinosaur is feeling?’ or ‘What do you think will happen next?’
- Try to focus on the story or information rather than on the device. You can do this by connecting interactive elements to the story – for example, ‘Why do you think there’s happy music?’
- Switch off animations and games if you think they’re distracting your child.
- Help your child learn to use the ebook – for example, by showing her how to swipe, scroll and use the interactive features.
- If your child likes using the read-aloud option to enjoy ebooks alone, encourage him and show him how to do things like clicking on words to hear their meanings.
- Watch for signs your child is getting distracted or losing interest. It might be time to put the ebook away or try a different kind of book.
Ebooks and bedtime
Traditional print books are best for bedtime because they help your child relax and get ready for sleep.
If you want to use ebooks close to bedtime, it’s best to avoid noisy and exciting ebooks, which might overstimulate your child.
It’s also a good idea to use an ereading device that lets you minimise blue light. Blue light can make it harder to get to sleep because it tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime. Some devices have a ‘night shift’ or ‘night light’ setting that changes the light the device emits. You can also download blue light filters.
Choosing an ereader for your child and family: tips
Ereaders come in two types:
- ‘do-it-all’ devices like tablets
- ‘just for reading’ devices like Kindle and Kobo.
These questions can help you choose the right device for your child and family.
What do you want to use the device for?
Kindle or Kobo are just for reading and associated activities like looking up words or checking information online. You can do more things on a tablet, like playing games, using apps, accessing social media, watching video and so on.
How old is your child?
Young children whose fine motor skills are still developing might find it easier to use ‘tap and swipe’ touchscreens on tablets. The controls on devices like Kindle and Kobo are harder for very young children to use.
Will you be using the device to do a lot of reading?
Devices like Kindle and Kobo have screens that are more comfortable to read because they use a technology that mimics ink on paper. Tablets have backlit screens that are associated with increased eye strain. If you’re using a tablet, smartphone or computer, it’s a good idea to turn down the brightness to prevent eye strain.
Do you want to borrow ebooks from your local library?
If you want to borrow ebooks from your local library, you can do this with tablets or Kobo. Kindle uses a file format that isn’t supported by Australian library systems.