Reading with your children: proper books vs tablets

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Opal Eyes/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

By Nicola Yuill, University of Sussex

Most of us have an opinion about whether we prefer reading on screen or paper: but what difference does it make for children? The truth is that technology is now encountered from babyhood. Anecdotes abound of toddlers swiping their fingers across paper rather than turning the page, while parents and teachers express their fear of screen addiction as tablets introduce new distractions as well as new attractions for young readers. The Conversation

Ofcom figures tell us that children’s screen use rises sharply towards the end of primary school (from age seven to 11) and in the same period, book-reading drops. Increasing screen use is a reality, but does it contribute to a loss of interest in reading, and does reading from a screen provide the same experience as the feel of reading on paper?

We looked at this in our research on shared reading. This has been a neglected topic even though it is clearly a common context for children when they read at home. It might be their regular homework reading of a book from school, or a parent reading them a favourite bedtime story.

Warming up

We asked 24 mothers and their seven to nine-year-old children to take turns – mother reading or child reading – with popular fiction books on paper, and on a tablet. They read Barry Loser: I am not a Loser by Jim Smith and You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum by Andy Stanton. We found that the children’s memory for the descriptions and narratives showed no difference between the two media. But that’s not the whole story.

The interactions of parent and child were found to be different in the independent ratings from video observation of the study. When they read from paper rather than a screen, there was a significant increase in the warmth of the parent/child interactions: more laughter, more smiling, more shows of affection.

It may be that this is largely down to the simple physical positioning of the parent and child when using the different media, as well as their cultural meaning. When children were reading from a screen, they tended to hold the tablet in a head-down position, typical of the way they would use the device for solo activities such as one-player games or web-browsing.

This meant that the parents had to “shoulder-surf” in order to share visual attention. In contrast, when parents read to their children on paper, they often held the book out to support shared visual engagement, tucking the child cosily under their arms. Some children just listened without trying to see the book, but instead curled themselves up comfortably on the sofa.

Paper or pixels?
Megan Trace/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Keep taking the tablets?

Our research joins a growing list of studies comparing paper and e-books, but the answer isn’t a simple one. Shared reading is different to reading alone, for a start. And we may be interested in whether screen or paper makes a difference in how children learn to read, to understand, and enjoy reading. In short there are multiple perspectives to consider – developmental, educational, literary and technological – if we are to decide which medium is preferable.

Most studies have compared children at the earliest stages of reading, using paper books, e-books with audio and dictionary support to help less-skilled readers, and so-called “enhanced” e-books with multimedia, activities, hotspots and games.

Text with audio support helps children to decode text, and multimedia can keep a reluctant reader engaged for longer, so a good e-book can indeed be as good as an adult reading a paper book with their child. But we don’t yet have long-term studies to tell us whether constant provision of audio might prevent children developing ways of unpicking the code of written language themselves.

They think I’m reading; I’m playing Candy Crush.
George Rudy/Shutterstock

Re-design for life

There is also increasing evidence that adding multimedia and games can quickly get distracting: one study found that young children spent almost half their time playing games in enhanced e-books, and therefore they read, remembered and understood little of the story itself. But there is plenty of guidance for e-book developers on the what, where and how much of designing multimedia texts.

And that brings us back to perhaps the defining conclusion from our own study. Books versus screens is not a simple either/or – children don’t read books in a cultural vacuum and we can’t approach the topic just from a single academic field. Books are just books, with a single typical use, but screens have many uses, and currently most of these uses are designed round a single user, even if that user is interacting with others remotely.

We believe that designers could think more about how such technology can be designed for sharing, and this is especially true for reading, which starts, and ideally continues, as a shared activity in the context of close long-term family relationships. Book Trust figures report a drop from 86% of parents reading with their five-year-olds to just 38% with 11-year olds. There is a possibility that the clever redesign of e-books and tablets might just slow that trend.

Nicola Yuill, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Books beyond seasons

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By Nora Vasconcelos

It’s almost the end of the year and as December approaches, I can’t be happier for all the great books I have had the chance to read in 2016. Some of them were new releases, some others were published some time ago; some were famous, some others, wonderful little gems which I’ve luckily come across.

There’s not really a particular order I’ve chosen to present them, it’s merely as they come to my mind. My biggest wish is that these books will bring to you as many delightful hours as they brought to me:

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. The magic of this book comes from combining a wonderful location with a very sweet love story and the fantastic presence of books all along the story as the ones that shape the life of all the main characters. If you like France, either because you’ve been there, or because you have the idea of this idyllic country, this is a perfect book for you as wonderful tender descriptions of Paris and the little towns along the main French rivers are presented here. The story will capture your mind from the first chapter when it takes the main characters to an unexpected but charming journey in which not only they will open up to share their deepest fears and dreams but also it will take you along for an introspective trip in which one main question hangs in the air: “what would I do if I found out decades later that I’ve been all wrong about love?”.

The Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier: I’ve got to read this book thanks to the kind recommendation of my good friend Andrew Hill. The story begins with an unexpected event that makes the main character decide to change his complete life at the age of 57. An inexplicable meeting and a unique book make him drop everything and go to the station to catch the night train to Lisbon. From there, his life will become something very different. Apart from falling in love with Lisbon, I found in this book some of the most wonderful quotes ever about life, books and traveling. This is my favorite one: “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”

A Strangeness in my Mind by Orhan Pamuk: Placed in Turkey, this book tells the story of a street vendor who sells a couple of traditional homemade products. The magic of this novel resides in how the story presents at the same time the changes that this country faces for many decades while the vendor grows up, from a little boy to an old man. Pamuk’s masterful way of writing offers the reader a majestic read in the simplest way, developing an easy-to-read novel based on a very complex topic.

The Phantom Ship by Frederick Marryat: Publish in 1839, this book can be read and enjoyed at any time as it takes the reader’s imagination to a fantastic journey in which the main character goes from ship to ship in order to break an old curse that affects him and his family. Even when some words have the feeling of old English, the skill of the author delivers a fast-paced, easy-to-read story that will absorb you from the beginning to the end. For ship lovers and people who love traveling to exotic lands and adventures, this is a perfect read.

The only street in Paris by Elaine Sciolino: This is not a work of fiction. It’s the result of an amazing work of investigative journalism combined with the delightful narrative of a New York Times correspondent who fell in love with the rhythm and lifestyle of a particular street in Paris, and out of her immense curiosity and skill as a journalist presents a series of interviews with the owners of the stores located along this street in the form of a delightful memoir/travelogue that makes the reader wish, chapter after chapter, to take the first plane to France and go straight from the airport to the Rue des Martyrs.

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Cruising the Mediterranean

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By Sunny Lockwood and Al Lockwood

Guest Post

For those of us who love to travel, there’s rarely a question of why?

We know why: we want to see new places, learn about new cultures, try new foods, and simply have fun in a city or countryside where we’ve never been before.

The questions we ask are: Where do we want to go next? How can we get there? When can we leave?

My husband and I have had the travel bug since we were young. Now, well into retirement, our wanderlust is strong as ever. And the rewards are equally great.

Studies show that travel is good for the body, the brain and the spirit. And even though our older bodies lack the endurance they once had, we find that travel enlarges our concept of “home” and enriches our experience of wonder.

Imagine being awakened by the deep, resonant melody of church bells, bells that have rung each morning for centuries. That was our experience in Florence.

Or being enveloped in the fragrance of incense from a fortuneteller’s shop. We experienced that each afternoon in Barcelona. Our Airbnb apartment was right above her shop.

Imagine the flavor of dark chocolate gelato setting your taste buds dancing. That was our daily experience in Venice. That and the scene of shiny black gondolas sliding calmly through narrow canals.

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Our stunning world is immense. But our individual lives are brief. So if there’s something you dream of doing, our advice is do it now. While you can.

Sweetheart Al and I choose ocean cruising as our preferred method of long-range travel. There are many reasons for this, including our modest travel budget and our declining mobility. We can no longer hike like there’s no tomorrow, jump into sleeping bags, or pedal bicycles for miles.

But on a cruise we can see the world at our own pace and in our own way while sleeping in the same comfortable bed each night.

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And we’ve chosen to share our adventures through travel memoirs.

Our newest book, Cruising the Mediterranean, brings readers along on our 12-day cruise to Venice, Athens, Istanbul, Ephesus and three Greek islands.

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Even before we left California, we started our trip by adjusting our internal clock so that we’d be on European time when we arrived in Amsterdam. We added four days in Amsterdam just because Al wanted me to see that historic city, before boarding our cruise ship.

In Amsterdam, we used Airbnb. A first for us, and we loved the experience. We stayed in the heart of historic Amsterdam. Actually, our room was in the Red Light District, so our “window shopping” introduced us to the latest in sex toys, edible underwear and items we couldn’t even identify.

We cruised on Holland America. We’ve cruised on other lines, but this 12-day trip fit our pocketbook and visited places we really wanted to see.

At every stop, we experienced something wonderful, from standing on the Acropolis as the morning sun gilded its marble monuments, to watching a rug weaving demonstration in Istanbul.

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We discovered delectable Turkish Delight during a dinner cruise along the Bosphorous Strait. And enjoyed the largest piece of Baklava we’d ever seen in a family-owned restaurant on the island of Santorini.

We’ve done our best to capture in words (and a few photographs) the wonder of our trip. Our goal in writing travel memoirs? To share our fun and fabulous experience. And to encourage others to make their own travel dreams come true.

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*Sunny Lockwood is a retired newspaper reporter, columnist and editor. Her freelance stories and articles have been published in MS magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other national and regional publications. Al Lockwood is a retired Silicon Valley engineer. He’s a fine art photographer whose work has been published in magazines and newspapers.

*All the images courtesy of Sunny Lockwood and Al Lockwood

 

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Love and drama at the Opera house

By Nora Vasconcelos

by NVS
Finding the light.

While reading the different passages of Le Fantome de l’Opera, a novel by Gaston Leroux, it’s hard not to start humming that famous tunes from the musical written by Andrew Lloyd Weber for the musical The phantom of the Opera, based upon the story by Leroux.

So, it becomes a magnificent experience going through the pages of this novel, recreating the images of the show, while discovering all those little details and hidden secrets that the book has to reveal to the readers.

Along with the well known Christine Daae (the opera singer who’s enchanted by the ghost); Raoul de Chagny (Christine’s boyfriend) and the Opera Ghost (who’s in love with Christine), another characters appear in the book. The main one is The Persian, who plays the role of the narrator, as well as the reader’s guide.

Also, in the novel, the Ghost, called Erick, is at the same time a disgusting figure that performs evil acts (much more than the ones that appear in the musical), and a lonely soul desperately looking for Christine to love him “for who he is”.

The drama increases as the story develops up to the point that it’s really hard to put the book down, while curiosity to know what’s going to be the destiny of the characters as a chase among them has started, followed by a series of dilemmas, problems and hard choises.

Then the characters, along with the readers, are driven to desperation while going through the dark and dangerous hidden places of the Opera house.

Their efforts to find a way out of the horror continue until the end of the story,when an unexpected faith awaits for all of them.

After such intensity, it’s really hard stop thinking about the passages and the characters of the story, and the feeling of having read a great book remains for a long while.

Note: This site is in French, but it’s a good reference to get to know Gaton Leroux a little bit better: http://gaston-leroux.net/news.htm

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The Future of Writing

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Text by Nora Vasconcelos

The other day I wrote about my perspective about The Future of Books, and how I deal with the interesting reality we live with nowadays in which we deal at the same time with digital and print editions and how even though I recognize the advantages of eBooks, I keep this romantic feeling towards printed books which I can hold on my hands and let my mind fly with it’s content while my senses tell my mind the way any given book smells, weights, looks and sounds.

So, this week I want to talk about how I’ve faced the evolution of writing and how I see it’s future. And to start talking about this I’d like to share some thoughts that came to me when a fellow book lover from the website Forgotten Books told me about how newspapers also have changed through the years, from print smelly editions to digital dynamic ones.

This reminded me of a book I read a while ago written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which title in Spanish was Vivir para contarla, translated into English as Living to Tell the Tale, in which the Colombian writer shares with colorful images his first years as a writer, trying to catch any opportunity that would lead him toward his goal of making of his passion for writing a profitable career.

While struggling to survive while persevering on his goal, he came across with a job as a reporter for a newspaper, and it’s in this part when my mind got absolutely captivated by Garcia Marquez writing as he totally managed to capture my thought and my senses to transport them in an instant imaginary trip to the newspaper building where I seemed to be invisibly walking side by side with the young Gabriel who rush from here to there to get his stories, and after that, I accompanied him from the hustle and bustle of the newsroom, to the immense magnitude of the place where the huge press printed with it’s restless movement the new editions that will be distributed few hours later.

At this point of the book, I could swear that I was actually smelling the strong scent of the ink and hearing the constant noise coming from the press printing on paper what young Gabriel has written earlier first on his notebook (an actual notebook made of paper) and later typed on a typewriter, which nowadays is pretty much an element from the past or a vintage good, of which many young generations might never heard.

Those were the time when there was no internet, no websites, no blogs and even harder to imagine… No Facebook, nor Twitter!!!! But yes, that was life in the 1950’s.

Now it all seems like an incredible story, because for writers and reporters worklife has totally transformed in just a few years, ever since the first computers came available for commercial uses, up to now when it’s actually hard to leave aside the cell phone or the table (whichever the model or the brand) even if it’s just for a few minutes, as the temptation to read or post something right away as the idea comes or the even happens.

Writing life nowadays happens in a hurry, much more than it was in the past, and I think the future generations will remember at some point that the work we do in these days with some nostalgic as it “was the way things were done in the past, when modern technology wasn’t as modern as it’s today”.

However, I have to say that I feel actually bless for having had the chance to know both words, previous the internet era and post the notebook (the computer) appearance, because this has giving me the outstanding chance not only to enjoy the changes but also the ability to work under different circumstances.

And this reminds me of a story I read a while ago when the famous (or infamous I should say) huge blackout affected the east cost of the U.S. and Canada, and this news man with the Toronto Star wrote about how after reporting the event, he actually went back to the newsroom to face the unimaginable question ‘How are we actually going to get our edition out?’ and it was then when the old-almost-forgotten typewriters came on handy. It was a time when an old fashion machine actually save the world, or at least, their world.

It also reminds me on how well the writers of the old TV series Murder, She wrote, managed to present how the main character, Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer, first resists the change that’s coming and refuses to give up her typewriter, until one they when one of the machine key refuses to print one letter, the same one that she has to use the most as her main characters’ first names start with that same letter. Then it starts a tough process in which Jessica goes to school and starts to get acquaintance with her new PC, and, as she discovers, little by little, all the benefits that this new machine brings, she starts to feel more confident and more convince that she will never go back to her old typewriter, which she actually accomplishes, until one day when… her new notebook (computer) bakes down and she ends up finishing her urgent works with her very own and very old, typewriter.

Nowadays it’s hard to even imagine going to all that painful process of having to type a whole page only because you made a mistake, but, I’m grateful I actually had the chance to have worked with one of those machines, as now I appreciate much more my tiny computer, which I can take wherever I go, and I’m also thankful for those wonderful cell phone that allow us to connect to internet everywhere, and I’m a big fan of these wonderful tablets that make the art of traveling with a lot of information, a complete pleasure, as the only thing I have to carry on my suitcase is the tablet and not some heavy ‘tons’ of paper.

So, although it’s hard to actually imagine what the future will hold, and how writers will have to evolve with it, I’m totally up for the ride!

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The Future of Books

Text by Nora Vasconcelos

Books and more booksAs ebooks beocome more popular, I keep of having mix feeling about them.

On the one hand, I feel amazed by how wonderful these ebooks are, as you can simply file them in your ebook reader or your tablet and take them all around, as many as you want, without even having any problems with space. This is a wonderful thing while traveling.

On the other hand, I always miss the exciting feeling of having an actual book in my hands, feeling them and even smelling and listening to them as I turn the pages.

I also miss the outstanding feeling of wandering around the bookstores. I remember it was just a few years ago when going to the bookstore was one of the most exciting experiences as I was able to get almost any book I wanted at any given time.

However, this has been changing very quickly and nowadays it’s harder to find those huge bookstores in which everything was around. Now even though the bookstores keep a big selection, most of the time when a book’s not found on the shelves you’re often offered a book order by the same boostore.

So I keep on having these conflicted feeling in which I like ebooks and at the same time dislike them (for taking over printed books), and I keep on wishing that at some point bookstores will find their way to be the amazing places I’ve always love, and I keep on wishing that the Memorable Bookstores I’ve visited, will remain as great as they are.

At the same time, I’m grateful for the digital iniciatives like Project Gutenberg that aim to spread the love for books by sharing with the world thoushands of ebooks.

This kind of digital universal libraries remind me of an essay written by Isaac Asimov called The Ultimate Library, in which the author foresaw in 1980 what was going to be like the library of the future, in which, according to him, everything would be digitalized and people could reach any book just by connecting to a personal gadget such as a TV Set.

In his article, Asimov shows all the advantages of a Global Computarized Library that will contain all the knowledge of books around the world.

At the same time, the writer explained the benefits of the practical applications of the knowledge gotten from those digital books, and said that this wouldn’t be end the publishing business, it only would transform it, Asimov said.

So, while the books world keeps on changing, readers like me keep on trying to adjust fast to these new technologies, and in my case, I keep on treasuring more and more my big collection of printed books.

As for the new generation, the same Asimov said it well, it will be difficult for them how was the world without digital libraries.

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12 Books of Christmas

Christmas by NVS

By Nora Vasconcelos

Now that the Holiday season is around the corner I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite Christmas stories, and here they are:

1) Fallen Angel, by Don J. Snyder. Christmas time in a cottage called Serenity is the best place to help Terry McQuinn heal old emotional wounds. At the same time, he finds himself in this places that he had almost forgot as time passed by, the same as the relationship with his father. The cold weather and the snow accompany him, unaware that some new visitors to Serenity will change his life forever.

2) Silver Bells, by Luanne Rice. This book tells the story of Christopher Byrne and his son, who find the path back to happiness and family love thanks to a rough time spent in New York city, and the help of Catherine Tierney, who unexpectedly becomes a key element for all of them to finally be able to have a happy Christmas.

3) The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl. Not exactly a Christmas story, but, as part of the story occurs in winter and it places the reader in the time when Charles Dickens toured around the East Cost of the U.S, I always relate this book to the Holidays season.

4) Sherlock Holmes: A Case at Christmas and Other New Adventures, by N.M. Scott. For me good mysteries are always welcome, and who else that Sherlock Holmes himself to flavour a little bit the season. In this collection of stories, Scott retakes the characters created by Conan Doyle to bring many more enjoyable adventures, placing some of them during the holidays.

5) Murder never takes a holiday, by Donald Bain. As part of the series of books based on the TV series Murder She Wrote, this book features two stories. In the first one, A little Yuletide Murder, Bain takes the main character, Jessica Fletcher, to her hometown, Cabot Cove, where the mystery writers hopes to spend a joyful Christmas. However, as always it happens to Mrs. Fletcher, a murder comes on her way to prevent her to sit down and relax. The second story, Manhattans and Murder, places Mrs. Fletcher in New York city, where she’s determined to solve another mystery that’s has happened right in the middle of her book tour.

6) ‘Tis the Season, by Ann M. Martin. This children’s story touches the heart of everyone who reads it as it tells the story of little Flora and Ruby, who had recently lost their parents and are trying hard to fit themselves in a town where Christmas is all around.

7) and 8) Mrs. Miracle and Call me Mrs. Miracle, by Debbie Macomber, are two books in which Mrs. Merkle, often called Mrs. Miracle, goes around different places finding ingenious ways to solve those little problems that people around her face, exactly those little problems that seem impossible to be solved and that once they are solve, bring love, happiness and a very merry happy Christmas to everyone.

9) Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham. Imagine all what can go wrong during this time. Add then the idea of skipping the holiday. The result: A complete disaster. One that Luther and Nora Krank won’t be able to solve unless they accept some help from whom they less expect it.

10) Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop, edited by Otto Penlzer, owner of the Mysterious bookshop in New York City. This book compiles mystery short stories placed during Christmas time, written specially for the Bookshop by famous authors such as Anne Perry, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, Ed McBain and Donald E. Westlake.

11) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Of course this good old classic can be never missed during the celebrations. I’ve read and re read this story over and over, and I never get enough of it. I never get tired of going through its pages while I allow myself to get lost in the story as if I were a silent witness of what’s happening to Mr. Scrooge during that ghostly night destined to save his soul.

12) A Rumpole Christmas, by John Mortimer. If Christmas time is not really your thing, you can always take revenge of it by reading the adventures and misfortunes of Horace Rumpole, a moody character, who experiences all kind of situations during the Holiday Season while trying to make the least of this joyful time.

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