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Study Explains Best Way to Bond with Kids While Reading

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For many years now, my family has always tried to make some time over the holidays to sit down together and read old Christmas stories.

The first memory I have of this tradition occurred when I was in early grade school. Even though it was past my bedtime and the rest of the family was already asleep, my mother pulled out The Story of Holly and Ivy and we curled up on the couch and read it together. The fact that we both still recall this memory with fondness signals that it was most definitely a time of mother-daughter bonding.

As a new study out of the University of Sussex shows, the bonding time my mother and I experienced on that wintery night was likely far greater because we did it in a time when all books were still made out of paper.

The study examined sets of mother and child readers using both screens and paper reading material. Although the study did not find any difference in comprehension measures, it did find that there was much more physical contact (i.e. cuddling) and interaction between the parent and child when they were reading a paper copy of a book, particularly if the child was the one doing the reading.

Mother Child Reading Interaction

According to a Telegraph article on the study, these results may stem from the distracting, multi-tasking nature of electronic devices:

“The researchers believe that tablets can be distracting for youngsters, because they know they could be watching a film or playing a game on them instead of reading. …

Dr. Nicola Yuill, who led the study, said: ‘A paper book tends to have a single purpose, while an e-book is often only one app on a highly multi-functional device that can also be used to book tickets, play games, work on spreadsheets, and watch films.

‘And because digital devices are so often used in solo situations, reading books on digital devices moves from a potentially shared activity to a more individual, private activity.”

In other words, digital technology is great for conveying information… but not so great in fostering relationships.

We’ll all likely have a few opportunities for building relationships with our families over the Christmas holidays. Why not make the most of those opportunities and pick up a good, ol’ fashioned, paper book to read with your kids?

Image Credit: terren in Virginia

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.

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