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Early experiences with books are predictive of later reading success and language development in young children (de Jong & Bus, 2002; Parish-Morris et al., 2013; Strouse & Ganea, 2017a). However, not all reading experiences are created equal. Parents reading traditional paperback books with their children create more dialogic and content-focused reading experiences, while with electronic books (e-books) parents use more behavior-focused language (Parish-Morris et al., 2013; Krcmar & Cingel, 2014; Strouse & Ganea, 2017a). Given that parents play a large role in selecting reading materials, it is important to understand their opinions of these various formats. In an initial survey comparing print books to e-books, Strouse and Ganea (2017b) found parents preferred print books, engaged with their child more when reading them, and felt their child enjoyed them more. We extend these findings in two ways. First, we seek parent opinions of print books with interactive buttons (button books), a middle ground that shares characteristics of both traditional books and e-books. Second, in addition to asking about children’s reading experiences, we look more closely at factors that may affect parents’ experiences, such as the distractions introduced by electronic elements.
Thirty-one parents with children between the ages of 3 to 6, living in the United States completed a survey through Amazon Mechanical Turk. In addition to demographic questions, parents rated their agreement with seven-point Likert scale statements (7 = extremely likely) regarding various examples of books from three categories: traditional, electronic, and button books. In line with previous research, parents felt their children enjoyed the traditional books (M = 5.468) more than e-books (M = 4.871), p < .05, though no differences were found between button books (M = 5.145) and the other formats, ps >.1. Parents similarly reported enjoying reading traditional books with their children (M = 5.758) more than e-books (M = 4.436), but also enjoyed them more than button books (M = 4.145), ps < .05 (Figure 1). Looking at why parents prefer traditional books, parents thought their children learned most from traditional books (M = 6.26) compared to e-books (M = 4.06) and button books (M = 4.48), ps <.001. Parents also found button books (M = 5.16) more distracting than e-books (M = 3.97) and traditional books (M = 2.94), ps < .05 (Figure 2).
In line with Strouse and Ganea (2017b), parents feel that both they and their children enjoy traditional books more than e-books. Interestingly, different patterns emerged with button books. Parents enjoy them less than traditional books, whereas they believe their children enjoy the two formats similarly. Parents’ stable preference for traditional books may reflect their impressions that children learn best from this format. Additionally, parents are sensitive to how distracting button books are to their children during reading, which may help explain differences between parent and child enjoyment. Our results underscore the importance of examining the wide variety of book formats available from the perspectives of both parent and child when seeking to better understand the reading environment in the home.