The internet has brought about an explosion of reading.  

— Maria Gilje Torheim 

We all realize that reading is an important skill.  Children should be read to at an early age for their success later in school and life, but is it better to read a book or on a screen?

 Shared reading in which an adult reads while the child follows along is beneficial for cognitive development, narrative comprehension and mental imagery.  In other words, children get the  most value from reading as they think about the reading, understand what the reading is about and form pictures in their minds of the action they hear being read. Children’s vocabulary and pronunciation improve as they hear words read aloud. As a parent or another adult reads and explains the reading or asks questions to help children understand, they grow children’s interest in learning. Research show no difference in reading a book or on a device. 

If a text is long, needs to be read carefully, and involves making notes, students often prefer printed material where they can go back to review or underline what they need to learn. There is better concentration and greater overview if a book is read than reading the same material on a small screen. Students may read faster on the screen but they will understand less.  Children have a different mental attitude when they read on a screen. 

For younger children, it is better if they are read to. Children learn better by interaction with a live person than with a video presentation in spite of the sound, action and multimedia presentation. Parents can point out letters or familiar words to help the children know and understand.  Children with an average or lower vocabulary do better with an adult reading than hearing the same material read as a voiceover. Books with flaps, pop-ups, and pull outs make children think of the book as just another toy. If parents want children to learn factual information about animals, machines, life activities, they use books the children can follow as they turn the pages and see their parents reading left to right without the distraction of these added features.  

If your older children must spend time in front of their screens whether for school or fun and connection, they risk eye strain, headaches, and fatigue.  If your children are reading on their digital devices, especially on small screens such as a laptop or cell phone, their blink rate decreases and they may complain of dry eyes. If your children complain of headaches, show signs of excessive blinking, eye rubbing, or seem to be tired or cranky, maybe you should adjust the screen brightness down for indoor use. Placing your children’s workstation perpendicular to windows may also help. If children can’t see well, they struggle in their studies; be sure to get vision screenings if you notice any of the above signs of stress. 

Books of all kinds can build children’s language and literacy skills, but they do so perhaps in different ways. 

— Professor Daniela O’Neill 

Southern Arizona resident Bette Mroz is a former teacher, reading specialist and principal. As a mother and grandmother, she continues to help her family learn. She can be contacted at