“Let your child read along as words come alive on the screen!” The advertising shrieks . Translated from marketing speak it means, “Leave your child’s education in our hands. You go and enjoy yourself while we keep them quiet for a minute or two.”
But will your child learn to read? Of course not. I think we have forgotten just how much hard work goes into learning to read. So much of learning to read is dictated by the culture around the child. If the parents aren’t reading, why should a child bother? If the parents leave children alone with ebooks to entertain them, do you really think the children are going to bother following along with the text?
No, of course not. Books with follow along audio are entertainment. There is nothing wrong with that, but don’t expect your child to learn to read with them. Children love listening to stories but they don’t have the self-discipline to follow along and learn to read for themselves. It’s so easy to imagine children as being small versions of ourselves. They should be able to apply themselves to learning new skills just as we adults do.
But learning itself is a skill that needs to be taught. If you think that you can just give a child an e-book, with a famous actor’s voice reading the story, and then come back 20 years later and expect your child to be doing well in University, think again.
To children, there is no difference between real books and e-books. They have no loyalty to the old regime of paper and ink. But what they really respond to is the closeness of sharing, being together, the passing on of difficult skills and constant encouragement. You can snuggle up together with an ebook reader just as well as a book. If you can’t, that’s your problem. You an old fuddy-duddy and you need to move on,
Where e-book’s may well be at an advantage is with reluctant readers, for whom most of my books are aimed. “Reluctant reader” is a euphemism for boys. More precisely dyslexic boys and those with attention issues! If there is one thing that grabs their attention, it’s gadgets.
Some boys will embrace e-book’s and get reading without any problem at all, whilst turning down paper books because they are not cool and come with cultural baggage attached.
I thought long and hard about whether I should put an audio track in with the Ginger Ninja iBook. So many parents have told me that the Ginger Ninja was the book that got their child reading. I decided it would be wrong to turn a book into an entertainment and deprive a new generation the chance of having this be the first book they read all on their own.
I’ve added a quiz, a video of myself talking about where I got my inspiration and another video showing how to draw Ginger. I will continue adding extra features to the rest of the series to give added value to the iBooks.
It’s crossed my mind to film a YouTube video of a “Jackanory” style reading of the Ginger Ninja and see what happens. I’d like to know what people think about this idea.
In the meantime you can get the Ginger Ninja at the iBook store for your iPad at the following addresses.
Let me know if it’s your child’s first book they read, and :-)