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Mother read daughter a bedtime story

Digital devices replacing books for bedtime stories

Image credit: Dreamstime

A study has suggested that an increasing number of parents are happy to replace books with digital technology when they read their children bedtime stories.

Academic research widely agrees that early shared reading has valuable benefits, for both the 'reading ability of the child and for language development'. However, for a general recipe on how parents read and deliver stories to their children, opinions differ. Digital tools are becoming increasingly relevant and in some cases replacing the conventional analog alternative of a physical book, a survey has found.

The study, commissioned by the charity BookTrust, asked parents about their bedtime story habits and found that many parents are happy to use digital technology to read stories to their offspring.

Around one in four (26 per cent) of UK parents said they had tried to use tech such as 'virtual assistants' for bedtime stories. For parents who do read stories with their child at night, tech is now a part of that routine. More than half said they choose to use a smartphone, tablet, app or YouTube for the task.

The use of technology among kids as an alternative to a bedtime story is also increasing, the survey suggests. 65 per cent of parents said they would allow their children time on a smartphone, tablet, YouTube or in front of the TV, instead of sharing a bedtime story.

Hardcore book devotees argue that conventional book reading should not be replaced. Best-selling children’s author Francesca Simon, the creator of the popular ‘Horrid Henry’ series, said there would be no substitute for real books. Simon expressed her dismay at the study's conclusions, saying: "When I first saw these results, that 25 per cent of parents subcontracts their bedtime stories to tech, I was reminded of those science experiments where monkeys were given a wire-covered mother.

“But [technology] is just not a substitute for parents reading to their kids. I think people are really missing the point of what this is all about. This is an incredible time to share stories and to read together".

Despite Simon's criticism, most of the books of Simon's Horrid Henry series are available for Kindle and some in the format of Audible audiobooks on Amazon, mostly notably cheaper than the paperback version.

Comparison of book series and prices for Kindl and audible versions

Image credit: Amazon

BookTrust director Gemma Malley said parents are finding it 'harder and harder' to fit bedtime stories into their busy schedules. “I know from experience that it can be tempting to replace reading to your child with time on a device, but swapping books for tech can have profound consequences,” she said.

Whether research can confirm the negative consequence is not clear. However, she said that just 10 minutes of reading a book together a day would make such a difference: "It helps build children’s language, resilience, confidence and imagination and is an amazing way for families to bond".

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