Are there any doubts to say that our kids belong to the generation of “digital natives”? However, it is a point of contention to prove whether digitalization is good for engaged reading. If we want to improve all the languages in our families, we may focus on reading. Who reads more independently and holds attention for a longer period of time – a person who is keen on printed books or ebookworm?
The death of printed books is exaggerated, and print books are still more popular than books in digital formats. Though book reading is not environmentally friendly as hard copies are expensive and not renewable, there are several great advantages of print copies:
- The rare copies, especially old ones, can be found only in printed versions.
- Readers like the tactile feel of books.
- Turning pages gives a sense of progression in reading.
- There are no distractions from multiple online options (messengers, social networks, etc.).
- Some readers mention that it is easier to remember information from a hard copy.
Does the printed book have additional value for the family? It may be the copy that mom or dad have read in their childhood. Such books are part of the heirloom, equally with the heritage language itself.
However, one fact is worth a thousand arguments for multicultural families to choose a digital copy. Sometimes it borders on the impossible to find the print book in the mother tongue or in the target language.
Secondly, then the family develops needed language by reading, the pleasure of this process becomes crucial. The home library ought to provide a big variety of books to choose the interesting ones. It seems more possible to use e-books for such purposes, at least to get acquainted with the author and the plot.
Finally, the convenience of e-copies for references and a quick search is undeniable. There is a special type of recreational reading where the reader can locate, synthesize, evaluate, and communicate information from multiple digital texts.
All in all, readers must be active, as they engage with digital media and communicate with others. The interaction in social networks and special apps such as Goodreads can be supported both for digital and printed versions of the books. The reading stays connected and the readers receive the information from peers, but get the texts anywhere. The tradition of bookcrossing when a reader leaves his book in a public place to give the next person the opportunity to read it, may support the global contact of readers. Readers may also put recommendation notes at the bookmarks of the library books.
As reading is still a slow process, not all of the information can be consumed. And it is not the final objection to digital reading. What will be the device of e-reading? We now live in the smartphone era, and sometimes the screen is too small for comfort reading.
Online distractions are more manageable. The bonus is to have a great advantage in developing self-regulation skills. This is vital for readers in today’s world. He can learn how to identify reading goals, to manage distractions and to reflect on the reading.
However, these habits are all good for print-based reading as well. The teacher for the bilingual child has the opportunity to model mindful curation before, during, and after reading to assist the family in this important process. And there is no evidence of the benefits of hard or soft book copies. Each family weighs the pros and cons and creates its own library. The main goal is to support language development by reading. The young reader is at the center of this process, so whom will be the first step to ask?