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Today’s Young Readers and Their Parents: Something Old, Something New? - New Cooney Center QuickReport

For those of you not familiar with the work of Joan Ganz Cooney she is the one that started the Children’s Television Workshop way back in the 1960s. Probably the workshops most famous production was Sesame Street. The Joan Ganz Cooney center takes on her working as her legacy where they look at the effect of media on young learners. Earlier this year they took on e-readers and iPads and  wanted to see the effect of those on early readers. This is the follow up.

Here is an email I recently got from Michael Levine the director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center:



I hope that the summer allowed you a bit of time to relax and recharge. Because you have told us of your interest in early uses of technology and literacy development, we are pleased to share the results of a large-scale parent survey that was conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center over the course of 4 months this spring.  To follow up on insights revealed in our Print vs. E-books QuickStudy, Cooney Center Research Fellow Dr. Sarah Vaala and Director of Research Dr. Lori Takeuchi conducted a survey among 1,200 parents to ask them about their attitudes and practices toward reading books with their 2-to-6-year-old children. Because the Apple iPad has demonstrated a quick rise to dominance in the tablet marketplace, this report delves into iPad owners’ (approximately 500 of the participants) practices and their perceptions surrounding the use of e-books in their kids’ literacy development.  While iPad owners are not representative of parents across the nation, we did findnoteworthy patterns of perceptions and use of e-books among the families in this sample that we believe warrants broader consideration among developers, philanthropy, and policymakers.  Given the speed with which families of all income levels are now adopting iPads and other tablets, we believe that this study poses emerging questions for deeper, ongoing research.  Here are the top-line findings: 


  • iPad owners who read e-books with their children see certain features as helpful for early readers, and others as distracting. Parents reported that audio features were most helpful for their young readers, including the option to click on a word to hear it read out loud. Conversely, embedded games and videos were found to be distracting, contributing to a perception among some parents that co-reading e-books with their children was “difficult”.
  • Parents with iPads vary in their perceptions and expectations of the experience of reading e-books with their children. We found that just because a parent owns an iPad and enjoys reading on it herself does not mean that she will prefer reading with her child on the device. But those parents who do read e-books with their kids tend to feel positively about features in e-books that can help children learn to read on their own.
  • Perhaps most interestingly, reading e-books has not replaced reading print books together in families with iPads.  Even among parents who enjoy reading e-books with their children, the majority still prefers to read print books over e-books with their kids.

Our study was designed as a quick exploration of parents’ perceptions and pralctices of young children (6 and under) during a time of rapid growth in the e-book industry. With this survey, we were primarily interested in how parents today are reading books with their children, and how their perceptions of e-books compare to print books for learning and engagement, as well as what factors contribute to a parent’s decision to read or to not read e-books with their kids. 


The link to the report can be found here: http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/Reports-36.html   


I have also written a blog post on the subject which appears here:http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/Cooney-Center-Blog-270.html


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