It’s a book!
I still remember when my family got our first computer. It was about 20 years ago. The computer was huge; it sat on top of a desk in the living room. It took about 10 minutes to start up. The monitor could only produce green and black images. It was my first experience with technology – and I loved it.
But things have come a long way now. It is a different story. Technology is portable. We carry the internet in our pockets on our mobile phones. I have hardcover books that are heavier and harder to carry around than my laptop.
Younger and younger children are using the internet, and proficiently. I am amazed at how many three-year olds can manipulate an iPad or iPhone. When handed a parent’s phone, they know exactly where and how to find what games, stories or applications they enjoy the most.
App developers now make applications that are marketed towards children. There are games, activities and books as well as applications designed to aid learning – whether it is numbers, reading or writing. Some toy developers are also looking at developing tablet PCs for children.
I have come across some fantastic story applications for children. Some do more than read the book. Children can touch the characters and add extra dialogue. They can tilt the phone to explore the page. Stories can be enhanced by technology.
Technology can also enhance learning and provide new experiences, but what we need to remember through all this is the development of parent/child relationships. Parents and children sharing a screen device together and chatting about it can still be a positive, bonding experience. But technology shouldn’t be about replacing the role of the parent.
Why do we read bedtime stories? Is it to send the child off to sleep having spent the last few minutes of the day curled up next to someone who loves them? Or is it because it is a story, and children like stories? I’m inclined to say it should be both.
We need to be careful that the bedtime story read by a loving parent is not replaced by a bedtime story read by the loving parent’s computer.
Technology has a place in enhancing and developing learning. Like it or not, it is here. And like anything, it is about finding a balance.
I love technology. Children are enthralled and engaged by flashing images and the ability to make things happen on the screen. Digital books can engage children (and parents) who are reluctant readers.
But as much as I love technology, I think it is important that we take a step back. Let’s not forget our roots: pencils and paper to draw pictures with on rainy days, and books with alluring covers that, if you tilt the page, require you to use your imagination to make up the rest of the scene. Smart phones and tablet PCs can run out of battery power, but I can guarantee my favourite picture book will never go flat. Why? Because it’s a book.
Have a look at this book trailer for a short animated film based on Lane Smith's It's a Book, an adorable picture book for children that celebrates traditional books.