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Electronic Book May Give Story Time With Parents Digital Boost

While pediatricians have voiced concern over the amount of screen time preschoolers get, electronic stories may have an edge over print books when it comes to family story time.

In a new study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, U.S. and Canadian researchers found parents and toddlers were more engaged when they read electronic versus print books together. More than 100 toddlers and their parents were randomly assigned to read two stories together, either in print or e-book formats. Both versions of the book featured familiar domestic animals like ducks and horses, but also wild animals like koalas and crocodiles which parents reported as new to their children. The e-books had identical pictures, but also included animation, music, sound-effects and voice-over narration of the stories. 

Gabrielle Strouse of the University of South Dakota and Patricia Ganea of the Language and Learning Lab of the University of Toronto in Canada found parents talked to their children equally while reading the print and e-books, but both parents and toddlers pointed more often while reading the electronic version. And toddlers paid more attention, participated and commented more during the digital storytime than for print. The children were also came over for more stories in the digital format. 

Strouse and Ganea also found children who read electronic stories with their parents and paid more attention also were more likely to identify an new animal in a word test after the story.

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