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Paper or Electronic?

eReading is on the rise. With arguments about which is better for the environment, there is also the consideration about which is best for beginner readers.

Smart electronic use, like unplugging items when not using to save power, combined with energy efficient gadgetry may make digital appear a better choice when placed up against stacks of paper made books.

Although it is hard to determine just how much paper goes into one book, according to Paper University it takes about one pallet, or cord of uncut hardwood to make 942 hard cover books with around 100 pages.

Though it appears reading on screen may be a paper saver, the digital wasteland also has to be acknowledged. Heaps of tossed aside readers may add to the un-recycled piles sitting around once newer ones come on the market.

So, which is better on an environmental scale? There may not be a concrete answer.

Some book publishers, including educational and children’s literature companies, are printing books by using more sustainable means. There is also an increasing amount of businesses that are listening to demands from consumers about offering effective products made with greener materials, which are both needed steps forward.

So as book manufacturing technology becomes more environmentally friendly, which reader experience is best for budding booklovers. Children should have exposure to a print rich environment during early reading stages including age-appropriate reading material, but does it matter if that is from a page or on a screen? There may not be a clear response on this issue, either.

It is important to introduce basic early literacy concepts offered from books, like directionality, or which way to turn pages. Those who have had more than many years of reading experience may not realize that as children learn to read they begin to put it together like a puzzle, with things like which way to read and how to turn pages and start again, as integral parts.

Though fundamental early reading strategies are offered from books, they can also be demonstrated in high quality electronics. It is imperative to keep children afloat in an increasingly digital world, and they need to know how to incorporate technology into their efforts and learning experiences.

Though research advises us that in order to get the benefit from electronic reading the technology should be of good quality, as inferior materials may contain disruptive types of sounds or graphics that may not represent what is happening in the storyline (Moody, 2010). This can be confusing to young children and detract from comprehension. It is not a small feat to learn to read, and distractions during reading time should be kept to a minimum.

A balance, as with everything, may be the key. Provide printed words along with screen time and explain any transitions between the two if necessary. Good free or low fee options for printed exchanges as well as electronic selections are local libraries, where you can usually check out everything from classics to comic books, magazines and sound recordings. Most also offer a variety of formats for reading on screen. Some may even take requests and will fill them from other libraries if they don’t have what you’re looking to read. Being resourceful and finding even ordinary things, like pamphlets, flyers, street signs and other environmental print also offers a steady stream of free reading materials.

The debate between the book and the ebook will likely remain. Both sides will have to continue to develop in more sustainable ways. Regarding literacy, essentially what matters is that developing readers are in fact reading and being read to.

A. K. Moody. Using Electronic Books in the Classroom to Enhance Emergent Literacy Skills in Young Children. Journal of Literacy and Technology. November, 2010. 1,4. Retrieved from: LiteracyandTechnology.org

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