Electronic reading devices or hard bound books—the jury is still out on this one

“Sonali, we are going to a library today”, says Harshini Bharadwaj, a mother to her seven-year-old, trying to induce some excitement into the planned outing for the evening. The young one looks a trifle irritated as she thinks momma is a bit outdated. There are stories to be read on gadgets like the iPad. And they are readily available to her thanks to her dad’s involvement in digital tools.

Apart from digital tools, there is always telly and kids are glued to it with Chhota Bheem and Ben10. So are there parents, trying to keep the tradition of reading from a book?

Ashish Verma, a graphic artist and a parent says: “When you hand out a digital device like a flashy smart phone to children even before they turn one, it is natural that they will be attracted to it and want to watch content rather than read it. Unless parents make conscious efforts right from the beginning to read from books, it is not going to appear exciting for the children.”

On the other hand, there are those who feel digital is the way forward, considering how much content is digitised these days.

And keeping children away from technology is not particularly helpful. To those, the argument is there is more to books than just a reading tool.

Varsha P says: “I have been a voracious reader since my teens. It’s an amazing feeling to be surrounded by books in a library or a bookstore or for that matter to hold on to a book in your hand. While I do encourage my daughter to use the laptop, I do not think books will cease to be anytime soon. Don’t we like to read a newspaper, watch a news clip on television, read a forward joke on the phone? So in my opinion children can read from new devices, but the charm of a book cannot be ignored and I do hope children and parents understand this point.”

According to Kavya Hegde, marketing manager of Just Books, a library chain, “Reading from a regular book and reading from a digital device can be complementary.

Both can co-exist, in fact over 60 per cent of our readers are mothers who want to introduce their child to the world of books end up taking a book themselves too. We feel there are a lot of parents who want to let their children cherish the reading experience from a hard-bound book.”

A recent comment by the former President, Abdul Kalam endorsed the view on reading from regular books when he said there should be a library in each house with a minimum of 10 books, to encourage children to read. He also urged parents to take steps to increase the collection every now and then. The verdict seems to indicate – get ready to embrace the digital form, but do not ignore the traditional form of storytelling or reading.