Print books best for promoting child literacy

Reading with your child is a gift no matter what the format — but printed books remain the best way to develop literacy, research suggests.

Gerry Shiel of the Educational Research Centre at St Patrick’s College, Dublin, examined global research on the impacts of different story formats on a child’s literacy and language development.

With stories now accessible on a range of digital devices, Dr Shiel said US research found enhanced e-books elicited fewer reactions to content than print books, suggesting the enhanced e-book format was less effective than print or even unenhanced e-books at improving literacy.

“Children who read enhanced e-books recalled significantly fewer narrative details,” said Dr Shiel. “This finding suggests that features of the enhanced e-book may have affected children’s recall because attention is focused more on non-content issues than on story-related issues.”

He said the indication from the research is that print books are better for promoting shared reading that supports literacy development, while e-books — and enhanced e-books in particular — are more advantageous for engaging children and prompting physical interaction.

For parents planning to share books with young children, the recommendation is to use a combination of print, e-books, and enhanced e-books. But they should also take up shared reading activities, such as discussion of important story content, and of links between the story and the child’s experiences.

Meanwhile, the Reading Association of Ireland has teamed up with children’s yoghurt brand Munch Bunch and Irish children’s author Sarah Webb to find aspiring writers for children. The RAI’s story-writing competition is looking for original children’s stories of 600 to 800 words, to feature the brand character Munch the Cow.

* Details on how to enter for the chance of a €1,000 cash prize are available on

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