Students Reading E-Books Are Losing Out, Study Suggests

The New York Times Motherlode Blog

Could e-books actually get in the way of reading?

That was the question explored in research presented last week by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar, an associate professor at West Chester University, and her spouse, Jordan T. Schugar, an instructor at the same institution. Speaking at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, the Schugars reported the results of a study in which they asked middle school students to read either traditional printed books or e-books on iPads. The students’ reading comprehension, the researchers found, was higher when they read conventional books.

In a second study looking at students’ use of e-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, the Schugars discovered that the young readers often skipped over the text altogether, engaging instead with the books’ interactive visual features.

While their findings are suggestive, they are preliminary and based on small samples of students. More substance can be found in the Schugars’ previous work: for example, a paper they published last year with their colleague Carol A. Smith in the journal The Reading Teacher. In this study, the authors observed teachers and teachers-in-training as they used interactive e-books with children in kindergarten through sixth grade. (The e-books were mobile apps, downloadable from online stores like iTunes.)

While young readers find these digital products very appealing, their multitude of features may diffuse children’s attention, interfering with their comprehension of the text, Ms. Smith and the Schugars found. It seems that the very “richness” of the multimedia environment that e-books provide — heralded as their advantage over printed books — may overwhelm children’s limited working memory, leading them to lose the thread of the narrative or to process the meaning of the story less deeply.

This is especially true of what the authors call some e-books’ “gimmicks and distractions.” In the book “Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure,” for example, children can touch “wiggly woos” to make the creatures emit noise and move around the screen. In another e-book, “Rocket Learns to Read,” a bird flutters and sounds play in the background.

Such flourishes can interrupt the fluency of children’s reading and cause their comprehension to fragment, the authors found. They can also lead children to spend less time reading over all: One study cited by Ms. Smith and the Schugars reported that children spent 43 percent of their e-book engagement time playing games embedded in the e-books rather than reading the text.

By contrast, the authors observed, some e-books offer multimedia features that enhance comprehension. In “Miss Spider’s Tea Party,” for example, children hear the sound of Miss Spider drinking as they read the words “Miss Spider sipped her tea.” In another e-book, “Wild About Books,” sounds of laughter ring out as the reader encounters the line “Hyenas shared jokes with the red-bellied snakes.”

The quality of e-books for children varies wildly, the authors said: “Because the app market allows for the distribution of materials without the rigorous review process that is typical of traditional children’s book publishing, more caution is necessary for choosing high-quality texts.”

They advise parents and teachers to look for e-books that enhance and extend interactions with the text, rather than those that offer only distractions; that promote interactions that are relatively brief rather than time-consuming; that provide supports for making text-based inferences or understanding difficult vocabulary; and that locate interactions on the same page as the text display, rather than on a separate screen. (E-books recommended by the authors are listed below.)

Once the e-books are selected, parents and teachers must also help children use them effectively, Ms. Smith and the Schugars said. This can include familiarizing children with the basics of the device. Although adults may assume that their little “digital natives” will figure out the gadgets themselves, the researchers have found that children often need adult guidance in operating e-readers.

Parents and teachers should also help children in transferring what they know about print reading to e-reading. Children may not automatically apply reading skills they have learned on traditional books to e-books, and these skills, such as identifying the main idea and setting aside unimportant details, are especially crucial when reading e-books because of the profusion of distractions they provide.

Lastly, adults should ensure that children are not overusing e-book features like the electronic dictionary or the “read-to-me” option. Young readers can often benefit from looking up the definition of a word with a click, but doing it too often will disrupt reading fluidity and comprehension. Even without connecting to the dictionary, children are able to glean the meaning of many words from context. Likewise, the read-to-me feature can be useful in decoding a difficult word, but when used too often it discourages children from sounding out words on their own.

Research shows that children often read e-books “with minimal adult involvement,” Ms. Smith and the Schugars said. While we may assume that interactive e-books can entertain children all by themselves, such products require more input from us than books on paper do.

Recommended E-Books

For beginning readers

“Blue Hat, Green Hat” by Sandra Boynton

“Go, Clifford, Go!” by Norman Bridwell

“Meet Biscuit” by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

“Nickelby Swift, Kitten Catastrophe” by Ben Hecht

“Miss Spider’s Tea Party” by David Kirk

“A Fine Musician” by Lucy Thomson

For fluent readers

“Slice of Bread Goes to the Beach” by Glenn Melenhorst

“Who Would Win? Killer Whale Vs. Great White Shark”by Jerry Pallotta

“Wild About Books” by Judy Sierra

“The Artifacts” by Lynley Stace and Dan Hare

Read more of the latest research on how children learn, like “How to Build Children’s ‘Print Knowledge’ While You Read Together,” and “Get Your Kids Using Their Devices to Learn — With an App Purge,” on Annie Murphy Paul’s Brilliant Blog. Ms. Paul is the author of “Origins,” a book about the science of prenatal influences, and “Brilliant: The Science of How We Get Smarter,” to be published by Crown in 2015.

The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain by JoAnn Deak

Foreword Book Reviews

This owner’s manual lets teens kick the tires as they learn to drive their new-model brains.

The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain offers fun-filled, easy-to-understand information about how the brain works, grows, and develops to help young people successfully navigate through the challenging years from ages ten to twenty.

Adolescence is a highly dynamic developmental period, and the brain is the body’s most dynamic, and mysterious, organ. Psychologists JoAnn and Terrence Deak use ordinary concepts and language along with scientific terms to explain the various parts of the brain and how they interact with each other, using an analogy that many adolescents understand: the way a car works and the care it needs to operate at its best.

Freya Harrison’s lively, colorful illustrations add a touch of whimsy that greatly enhances the text, and fun science facts keep the reader enjoyably engaged. For example, did you know that if the cell body of a single neuron in your spinal cord that is about one hundred microns in diameter (about the size of a pinhead) were the size of a baseball, its axon would be nearly 2,416 feet long? That’s “eight times as tall as the Statue of Liberty, twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower, and almost as high as the tallest skyscraper on Earth.”

The Deaks also tackle some of the more troublesome aspects of adolescence, including the strong, and sometimes misguided, drive for independence and the emotional turbulence that characterize this time of life. Understanding that the brain’s different structures develop and mature at different rates, with the cerebral cortex (which participates in complex decision-making) not fully developed until adulthood, can help teens appreciate why they may need guidance from mature adults when it comes to making important decisions.

Learning that regular exercise supercharges the brain might lead even the most sedentary teen to frequent the gym or take up a sport. And understanding that, until the prefrontal cortex is fully mature, young people will have the tendency to act impulsively or engage in risky behaviors may help to protect them from making and acting upon some bad decisions; they may even find it easier to ask the advice of a trusted adult before their immature brain leads them astray. While geared to adolescents, parents and other adults who work with youth may find much to appreciate and enjoy in this manual on the care of their charges’ “grey matter.”

JoAnn Deak is an educator and preventive psychologist. Terrence Deak is a professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience at Binghamton University in upstate New York, where he runs an active neuroscience laboratory.

The authors make it clear that, no matter which types of life decisions adolescents must face, the choice always remains in their own hands. This respectful acknowledgment, together with the admission that making good decisions isn’t always easy, can help young people understand, and accept, both their limitations and their power.

Kristine Morris
January 28, 2014

Parent Summer Reading Books

Summer reading suggestions from Independent School Management and from NAIS President Pat Bassett:

The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck—101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers
by Ron Clark
In his New York Times bestseller The End of Molasses Classes, renowned educator Ron Clark challenged parents, teachers, and communities everywhere to make a real difference in the lives of our kids, offering revolutionary and classroom-tested ways to uplift, educate, and empower our children. Read this book to find out why so many across the country have embraced these powerful rules.How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
by Paul Tough
How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators, who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough reveals how this new knowledge can transform young people’s lives. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. This provocative and profoundly hopeful book will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

• Susan Eva Porter’s Bully Nation: Why America’s Approach to Childhood Aggression Is Bad for Everyone is far from just another “little shop of horrors” accounting of the deleterious effects of bullying and the stern discipline and strictures adults should apply to stem it. In fact, it’s just the opposite: a contrarian view of the universal and timeless realities of childhood aggression, the damage adults do by overreacting to run-of-the-mill social tussles and micro-aggressions that are normal, and the deleterious impact of reducing admittedly painful playground conflicts into just three blanket categories: bully, victim, and bystander (the latter now instantly guilty by association, or by inaction to intervene).

Filled with scores of revealing case studies she has witnessed, or counseled about as a child and school psychologist, Porter’s huge contribution is an attempt to reverse the dangerous trend she sees that oversimplifies, misreads, and over-amplifies much of what is now called bullying — such as exclusion at the lunch table in the school cafeteria, or from the pick-up dodge ball game on the playground, or the smarmy cuts on social media. Moreover, when parents of kids who are the target of teasing, unkind remarks, social exclusion, or more serious bullying want a black and white “crime” with capital punishment (“throw them out of school”), and schools adopt inflexible and unrealistic “zero tolerance” policies, we now teach some kids that they are incorrigibly bad to the core and others that they are helpless victims, lessons that are both over-reactions and examples of unhealthy adult “fixed” mindsets rather than “growth” mindsets.

What truly hurts, social pain, is just another in a long list of what seems, at the time, cataclysmic challenges pre-adolescents and adolescents face, and for which they need the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop the “grittiness” necessary to survive the turbulence of life. For those who truly want to understand the subtleties of what bullying is about, Bully Nation is an important contribution to the canon. Reading the book to learn how the parable of Buddha, the suffering woman, and the mustard seed apply is worth the time and effort alone. And considering that the new and wildly expanded definition of bullying “is more about today’s parenting than about child aggression” is a worthy counterpoint to conventional wisdom on the subject, because adults now “conflate desire for children to behave well with children’s ability to do so.” This book is a must-read for parents and educators, who will learn the truth of Mark Twain’s observation that “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

• Catherine Steiner-Adair, school and family psychologist and clinical instructor at the Department of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, offers in her new book, The Big Disconnect, a compelling accounting of how technology has become for families “our new home page,” the central organizing factor of our lives, focus, and relationships (or lack thereof). While Steiner-Adair acknowledges the advantages of the wired world, she develops convincingly the observation by psychiatrist Gene Cohen that technology’s powerful stimulation, hyper-connectivity, and interactivity are, for children and adolescents, like “chocolate to the brain,” and argues that parents unwittingly have accepted technology not just as the digital babysitter, but more disturbingly, allowed it to become “the third parent.” This book would be a great assignment for faculty/parent book clubs.

• Abigail James’ The Parents’ Guide to Boys: Help Your Son Get the Most Out of School and Life is yet another tour de force entry in her pantheon of books on gender-specific insights on parenting and teaching, this one on boys, revealing that, to quote Plato, ” Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable.” James’ work is Scout-handbook, chock-full of good guidance for parents of boys at all ages, “from 18 months to 90 years of age.” Given that boys are increasingly struggling at home and at school, this book arrives just in the nick of time for us to do something about the crisis. Nuggets include teaching your son that…

  • Failure is the first step towards success.
  • Getting your own way comes at a high cost — making others unhappy or angry.
  • Extrinsic motivation, like money, is temporary.
  • You are your son’s life teacher, not his academic coach.
  • You won’t do your son’s homework — since, like Tom Sawyer, if he can get someone else to do his work, he will.

James’ List of 10 Things to Do for Your Sons:

  • Read to your son every night.
  • Turn off the TV and computer (or at least limit the amount of access).
  • Talk and sing with your son.
  • Play games with him.
  • Let him play by himself or with others without adult interference.
  • Allow him to take risks.
  • Give him chores.
  • Teach him the value of money.
  • Teach him to respect others.
  • Make no threats, only promises.

 

Notable Children’s Books of 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas From the Children’s Book Review Editor of The New York Times

Illustration by Julia Rothman

This year’s notable children’s books — the best in picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction, selected by the children’s book editor of The New York Times Book Review.

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YOUNG ADULT

BITTERBLUE. By Kristin Cashore. (Dial, $19.99.) The companion to “Graceling” and “Fire,” this beautiful, haunting and thrilling high fantasy about a young queen and her troubled kingdom stands on its own.

CODE NAME VERITY. By Elizabeth Wein. (Hyperion, $16.99.) This tale of a spy and a fighter pilot during World War II is at heart a story about female ­friendship.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. By John Green. (Dutton, $17.99.) An improbable but predictably wrenching love story about two teenage cancer patients, written in Green’s signature tone, humorous yet heart-filled.

JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS. By Katherine Marsh. (Hyperion, $16.99.) A dwarf at court in 16th-century Denmark is the surprising hero in this novel, which also features the real-life astronomer Tycho Brahe, an eccentric Danish nobleman.

NEVER FALL DOWN. By Patricia McCormick. (Balzer & Bray/Harper­Collins, $17.99.) This novelized memoir tells the tragic but inspiring life story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a boy who was 9 years old when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia.

SON. By Lois Lowry. (Houghton Mifflin, $17.99.) In the conclusion to the dystopian “Giver” quartet, Lowry returns to the story of a mother searching for her lost son. “A quiet, sorrowful, deeply moving exploration of the powers of empathy and the obligations of love,” our reviewer said.

MIDDLE GRADE

BEYOND COURAGE: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust. By Doreen Rappaport. (Candlewick, $22.99.) This book about the Holocaust dwells on the choice to fight and resist rather than the road to death. A lively, absorbing and eye-opening history for young readers.

THE FALSE PRINCE. By Jennifer A. Nielsen. (Scholastic, $17.99.) Four orphaned boys and would-be princes are captured in a treacherous medieval kingdom in the first book of a new series. Adam Gopnik, our reviewer, called it a “page turner” and praised its “persuasively surly and defiant character, and a realistic vein of violence.”

HAND IN HAND: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. (Disney-Jump at the Sun, $19.99.) Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Barack Obama feature in this collection.

THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM. By Christopher Healy. Illustrated by Todd Harris. (Walden Pond/HarperCollins, $16.99.) The enchanting premise of this story is that four Princes Charming, carried over from their fairy tales of origin, must band together to track down Cinderella and restore harmony to their kingdom.

THE LAST DRAGONSLAYER. By Jasper Fforde. (Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99.) A 15-year-old orphan, indentured to magicians, in a world where dragons are dying out. Fforde’s first book for young readers.

LIAR & SPY. By Rebecca Stead. (Wendy Lamb, $15.99.) A bunch of misfits star in this contemporary tale, Stead’s follow-up to her Newbery Medal-winning “When You Reach Me.”

THE SECRET TREE. By Natalie Standiford. (Scholastic, $16.99.) Two children, a summer and a tree that tells secrets in this story about neighborhood kids.

SEE YOU AT HARRY’S. By Jo Knowles. (Candlewick, $16.99.) With four siblings at its center, Knowles’s story is about a family who run a restaurant and the commonplace and serious traumas they face.

SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS. By Laura Amy Schlitz. (Candlewick, $17.99.) A Gothic novel, from the Newbery-winning author, about three children and a master puppeteer in Dickensian London.

“WHO COULD THAT BE AT THIS HOUR?” By Lemony Snicket. Illustrated by Seth. (Little, Brown, $15.99.) A prequel of sorts to “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” this humorous riddle of a book is the start of a mock-autobiographical series.

WONDER. By R. J. Palacio. (Knopf, $15.99.) This novel tells the moving story of August Pullman, a 10-year-old boy born with severe facial malformations, and the bullying he endures when he attends school for the first time.

PICTURE BOOKS

BROTHERS AT BAT: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team. By Audrey Vernick. Illustrated by Steven Salerno. (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99.) The true story of the longest-running all-brother baseball team, 12 Acerra siblings who played together during the 1930s. A captivating story, impeccable layout and glorious illustrations make this historical account an unqualified winner.

THE DAY LOUIS GOT EATEN. Written and illustrated by John Fardell. (Andersen Press, $16.95.) A boy is eaten by a Gulper, which is eaten in turn by a Grabular, an Undersnatch, a Spiney-Backed Guzzler and a Saber-Toothed Yumper. His intrepid sister, traveling by bicycle and other hand-jiggered contraptions, comes to the rescue. Hilarious and sweet, both. “I love this book so much I want to eat it up,” our reviewer said.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS. By Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. (Dial, $16.99.) Rubin and Salmieri, the team behind the equally hilarious “Those Darn Squirrels!,” bring their kooky sensibility to this irresistible story about what can go wrong at a taco party for dragons. Salmieri’s drawings are not only a wacky delight, they’re also strangely beautiful.

A GOLD STAR FOR ZOG. By Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $16.99.) A school for dragons and a dragon-loving princess (who really wants to be a doctor) are at the center of this rhyming tale from the team behind “The Gruffalo” and “Room on the Broom.” Humor, heart and a worthy heroine earn this story its own star.

HELLO! HELLO! Written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. (Disney-­Hyperion, $16.99.) In this ode to nature and the palpable joys of pre-technology days, a girl runs wild on a horse while her screen-­addicted family members tap away indoors. The book’s “art is gloriously old-style,” our reviewer, David Small, said. Its message is loud, clear and important.

I’M BORED. By Michael Ian Black. Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. (Simon & Schuster, $16.99.) Black, a comedian, has become a fine children’s book storyteller (“A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea”). This original story features a bored child, a bored potato and a bored flamingo. Readers will not be bored.

KING ARTHUR’S VERY GREAT GRANDSON. Written and illustrated by Kenneth Kraegel. (Candlewick, $15.99.) On the day of his sixth birthday, Henry Alfred Grummorson, the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of King Arthur, sets out for peril and conquest. Alas, all he finds are peaceable beasts. There are still dragons in this clever story by a first-time author and illustrator.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. (Candlewick, $15.99.) The hat is back, but this time it belongs to a fish, not a bear. It belongs to a big fish, to be precise, but a small fish has stolen it. You will probably guess what happens in this delightfully dark, comic follow-up to “I Want My Hat Back.”

Why ‘Little Bear’ Made Me Burst Into Tears

Why ‘Little Bear’ Made Me Burst Into Tears

By GRETCHEN RUBIN
Harper Collins

“What kind of story would you like to hear?” said Mother Bear.
“Tell me about me,” said Little Bear. “Tell me about things I once did.”
–Else Holmelund Minarik, “Little Bear”

I’m not a particularly sentimental parent. In fact, I’ve sometimes felt guilty about my lack of emotional response to preschool graduation or a first haircut — so I was astonished to find myself weeping as I read these lines from “Little Bear” to my daughter.

What was it about this particular passage that pierced me to the heart?

Well, the utter trust, for one thing, and the unselfconscious self-centeredness of childhood. “Tell me about me.” As adults, we don’t get to ask for that kind of attention, no matter how much we’d like it (just for 5 or 10 minutes, of course).

But what really got me was the reminder about the passage of time. Little Bear is still Little, but already, he’s bigger than he was. So much is already past: his unnecessary attempt to dress warmly for the snow, his trip to the moon, his sixth birthday party. Childhood passes so quickly. In my own mind, I summarize this bittersweet truth: the days are long, but the years are short.

Little Bear asks his mother to tell him about himself. As parents, we play an important role in shaping and preserving our children’s memories of their own brief history. One of my happiness-project resolutions is to “be a storehouse of happy memories,” because remembering happy times in the past is an important way to boost happiness in the present, and children need parents’ help to sustain happy memories.

The responsibility to be the custodian of the art projects, class portraits and endless anecdotes about The Time You Got Locked in the Bathroom and The Time You Threw Up on the Way to the Airport can feel burdensome, but it’s an important obligation. Even though I almost suffered a nervous collapse when I finally buckled down to organize my enormous cache of photos into albums, I know that such records are a key way that my daughters and my husband and I hang on to memories.

We need the pictures and, like Little Bear, the stories, to show us the “things we once did.” It’s more comfortable not to be reminded that time is passing, but it’s also comforting to remember that those not-so-long-ago things remain a part of who we are now.

Watch Gretchen and KJ talk “Little Bear” and other picture books in their video introduction to the series here.

Original article

“Has Motherhood Replaced Sexism?”

A NY Times article:

Has Motherhood Replaced Sexism?

By KJ DELL’ANTONIA
 
Motherlode Book Club
 
THE CONFLICT

Elisabeth Badinter’s “The Conflict” argues that the modern natural-parenting movement undermines women.

Officially conceded, after the commentary on yesterday’s post regarding Hilary Rosen’s description of Ann Romney as “never having worked a day in her life:” the “mommy wars” between (some) stay-at-home mothers and (some) mothers who work outside the home are still raging.

Most agreed it was a linguistic distinction, and a Twitstorm not worth the pixels it flickered so quickly through. But what seems like a distinction without a difference to so many still has the power to fan the defensive flames of women who know, or suspect, that their fellow mothers question their choice to work or to stay home.

Elisabeth Badinter’s book, “The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women,” is guaranteed to feed that fire. Not only does she believe that the best course of action for any woman, no matter what her maternal status, is to stay in the work force, but she also argues that the women who have chosen to do otherwise have essentially been sold a bill of goods.

Influenced and deceived by the modern natural-parenting movement — with its labor-intensive breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and requirement that infants be properly stimulated and nurtured at all times — mothers “choose” to stay home because if they do not, they cannot meet the standards of this new ideal.

Read more