Reading First, Technology Later

I was talking to another Mum recently and she was telling me that she strictly limits her six year old son’s access to the computer. Even though they have access at home, she lets him use it very little and she was surprised by the amount of emphasis his school seemed to place on the need for children to have access to computers and the internet.

As a teacher, I certainly understand the push in schools to be seen to be providing children with an education in computer literacy, and as the Director of a child care centre, I was often asked if the children (especially the 4-5 year olds) had access to computers and the Internet.

My friend went on to clarify that she was not adverse to computers and knew that children needed to grow up to be confident users of modern technology but she wanted her children to know books and reading as their first love. She feels that there is plenty of time to learn to use a computer (the Internet, mobile phones, PDAs, digital cameras, etc, etc, etc) but a limited window in which to inspire a child to love the thrill of discovery contained within a well written book.

And I tend to agree.

There is so much to be found inside a good book – imagination, language, discovery, knowledge, new friends and faithful, old friends. There are books that leave you feeling inspired, thoughtful, comforted, saddened, hopeful.

And while I love the Internet and my trusty laptop for all that they provide me, I am not sure that computers and digital devices will ever be quite as inspiring as a good book. At least to me.

And I hope that Immy feels the same. My wish is that she also grows to love good old fashioned literature first and technology later. I hope we always make time everyday to read as we do now. Even once we find ourselves consumed by the busyness of school days and after school activities, maybe we will even start counting the days like this inspiring Dad and his daughter.

What are your thoughts when it comes to children learning to love reading and books versus using technology?

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  1. Ann Nolan, Co-founder says:

    I hear what you and your friend say but I disagree (sort of!).

    You see I think our (and I mean Gen x) will be the last generation to have this odd if not artificial distinction between online and offline worlds.

    For Gen Z and the new Alpha (as they call them) Gen born in 2010 this distinction does not and will not exist.

    With the acceleration of PDA's not to mention of mobile devices people are already using online to connect, learn, write, create, collaborate etc. The list is endless. Whether a child reads online or offline (a book) in the future it wont matter. It's about entering a different world created by the author.

    However that being said I too limit my children's time online. Not because I see there is a case for online v books but because I think too much time in front of a screen is bad for kids (also adults).



  2. Thanks for this. I have been thinking about this a bit lately for our children. I know I am generally a bit old fashioned and my tendency is always to the non-technological.

    My husband and I have been reflecting recently that we both now struggle to read a whole book (adult book I mean, not kid's books!). We were wondering whether it is because we have two very young children who wear us out, or whether we are used to the sort of snippets of information you get through online articles… I think DEEP reading is something that CAN be lost with too much online access.

  3. love the link to "The Streak" article

    What a challenge!

    Good on the two of them for persisting so long that is great

  4. SquiggleMum says:

    Hmmm… I'm a little in two minds about this one too. I don't think our children will view "technology" in the way we do. As Ann said above, for future generations it will be so entwined with daily life it will be hard to even separate technology out!

    I am not for a second suggesting we should sacrifice any precious reading time with our kids. The value of reading aloud to young children should never be underestimated. However, I don't think technology is the enemy of reading. The two can coexist, and can in fact complement each other in homes and in classrooms.

  5. I think there are good and bad in the use of technology with young children (I guess there is with most things isn't there! LOL)….

    I don't believe that we need to push or hurry our children into using technology. Sure things will be very different techno wise when they grow up, just like they are now compared to when we were kids… but there is plenty of time for children to be a part of this as they grow up.

    For a young child nothing can replace the importance of actually physically 'doing' while learning… there are plenty of ways I like to incorporate computers into the 'doing' in our house, but playing games or checking out websites isn't really meaningful 'doing' in my mind, so that is what we limit.

    thinking about a post on this subject but milling over where I stand too LOL

  6. miss carly says:

    I wrote a post about gaming and robotics a while ago now, and for me, most schools have Interactive Whiteboards within their classrooms as the children that are going through school live in such a technology rich environment, is there a need to stop this?

    I don't feel that the computers should be replacing books, as you may know I am a HUGE gan of books, but the children of the current generation {not even a GEN Y like me} are within technology everyday. I know 3 year olds that can use a DS, a computer, a DVD player and sometimes even younger!

    If we don't allow the children to use these within schools where they are able to access the funding to provide such technology rich backgrounds, are we then showing the message that using technology is bad? If so, then why do we introduce calculators? That is a form of technology.

    Just as scissors are, that are a low form of technology.

    Not all technology is bad, you can have an overkill and as teachers we need to ensure that whilst we are using technology within our classrooms there is still a richness of print and 'real' books.

    {Sorry for blabbing on, but the school I am at has ONE IWB, and I have booked two sessions in already one tomorrow and then Thursday. For me, the students need to know it is there and it is fun! Mind you there is no computers within the classroom either though. Unfortunately I have discovered that not all funding goes to where it should be and sometimes it is designated a specific area..}


  7. fusionparenting says:

    I think it's an artificial comparison – a bit like saying I'm going to limit their reading time because I want them to play actively outside. We have a wide range of activities that fit in different places and are all valuable in different ways, it is a matter of finding the balance.

    Yes, it would be an absolute loss if kids don't learn to love books. But it would be hugely detrimental if they don't also learn to love and navigate technology. They don't have to compete but they do both have to be there.

    Plus, I have a Kreativ Blogging Award for Christie here, come and have a look.

  8. Christie - Childhood 101 says:

    Thank you all for your comments so far. Please know that I am not saying that children should not learn to use technology, of course I understand how important it is for the children of today to be able to manage these resources, instead I am advocating that for my child I would love her to have a love for books first. I think the online world still has a way to go until we really see the richness of text which we find in books, especially when it comes to fiction. It's a bit like the current interest in handmade vs commercially made goods, sometimes the old way can be the better way.

  9. Candace April says:

    Today's kids are "digital natives". I have an unusual perspective for our generation (born 1977) because my Dad is a systems exec and I had a pc in the house from the time I was 5. So I'm closer to a digital native than most people my age. Sort of a digital creole.

    Anyway, I see it a lot like languages. Kids *will* learn computer and Internet usage because it is practically in the air they breathe.

    Just like if you want your kids to be bilingual, you speak the target, non-dominant, language at home, I think it makes a lot of sense to keep computers out of the picture, to the extent you can control it, until they are older.

    I don't think screen time is that good for kids until they are school-aged and even then, I think that limiting it will still result in plenty of computer usage…since it is just everywhere.

    I don't think my three year-old is missing out on her chance to be technologically adept simply because she does not know how to use a computer yet.

  10. leechbabe says:

    It is an interesting topic to look at. My mum has asked if she can get my daughter a Kindle for her soon to be 7th birthday.

    My initial reaction was horror and 'how about some good books instead' comment.

    I'm still really concerned about the idea of giving such an expensive gift to a child who manages to loose most of her possessions on a regular basis. But I can see why mum suggested it because Annie loves to read and ebooks seem to be here to stay.

    Me, I'd still rather hold a real paper book in my hands.

  11. As a high school English teacher, I have to teach children the love of literature and I also have to teach them how to use technology discerningly. Even though children are exposed to technology and use it, doesn't mean they know how to use it properly. I totally agree with what you've said. Children will learn how to use technology, no matter what, as it's so integrated into their lives. But, that's not necessarily the case with reading. If children aren't encouraged to love reading first, they'll miss out on so much; so much that technology can't teach them.

  12. Designsdbj says:

    My son is 16 and a huge reader of old fashioned books but he also loves his technology, as 16 year old boys do. I think they can co-exist. My son learned to read very quickly because he wanted to be able to read his Pokemon game on his Gameboy. But then he also fell in love with books soon after, especially Harry Potter. Now I find him regularly playing a Playstation game whilst reading a book – he says he can do both at the same time:) But when you blog about computers and hand writing, then that will be a very different story.

  13. My 5 year olds have never used my computer (I use it for work so I am far too protective of it) and they have never asked to. I know this will change as they get older, but at the age of 5 I would prefer them to be reading books and playing. I think at this age imaginative play is the most important thing they could be doing.

  14. I don't have a firm view on this one. I love love love real books. I love reading and hearing my children read. There are also so many free resources that help reading online like as well as many cd roms that are great to encourage reading.
    Lots of both I think??

  15. CountryFun says:

    I read constantly from all different mediums. The children in my care have continual access to books and they make use of them, because I model it. They all also come from homes that use the local library.
    I also have the computer out and going most days. There is a computer within my childcare space for the children to use and educational programs for all levels.
    I also watch the TV with my children during care hours. Programs are chosen to fit interests and what we are learning about. What we watch is talked about – I think of it as interacting with the program and each other.
    I believe children need to be taught to be good consumers. If they never have the opportunities to watch, use and make choices while young and with educated guidance – when will they?
    I do not believe in using TV and computers for background noise or to just keep busy. There is always a purpose.

  16. That's an interesting point, that our kids don't and won't have the distinction between online and offline worlds that we do. It's true that I (in my 30s) already see that with my nieces who are in their 20s, and I'm a bit thrown. But I have heard studies that indicate that we take in information differently from a screen than we do from a printed page, expecting to get snippets of information, not to delve into another, deep world. I don't know if that will change as things like Kindle make the "screen" more like the book, but I will always feel that there's a real difference.

    My kids see the computer as a potential source of entertainment as well as a source of information; questions about how a microsope works or how raisins are made or how bees make honey are answered with my best friend, Google Images. But books are another thing; they're eminently portable, they're tactile, and they're entirely personal; no one comes by and claims that you have to get off the book, and what are you reading about anyway? So I hope (and I hope I say this not only out of a romantic attachment to books) that they continue to share my love of a real, actual book.

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