Is This What Might Replace Paper Picture Books?

What might be lost in the move from paper to digital picture books? Or will digital books improve the the experience of reading?

Advertisements
Cover, Paul Revere's Ride
Cover, Paul Revere's Ride

As you all know, I love picture books. So when I got this link for a digital picture book, I had to check it out. (The link is at the end, since I want you to finish this before you click. ) It heralds the possibilities of moving books from paper to digital form — possibilities for word play, matching, watching, and story telling. Young readers will be able to read not only left to right, but also see words moving right to left and up and down. Words can appear and disappear, or letters can glide into a word. Both pictures and words can move in any direction (often off the screen, so there’s a lot of scrolling to keep up with.) The producer of this book (Can I call him/her  an author?) points out that paper picture books are limited to only one dimension, and are unidirectional and static. The producer tells us that two things can remain in the move to digital books:  The reader reads and the reader controls the story. By controlling the story, I assume we’re talking about turning pages or clicking buttons.

So is the digital book better? I’m asking my self what the difference is between such a digital book and an animated story with subtitles. Picture book artists such as Thomas Locker, Ruth Heller, Patricia Polacco and too many more to mention offer not only a story, but a rich visual experience that would not seem to lend itself as easily to animation as maybe the work of someone who is simply bold and colorful. I would think it difficult for the subtle tones  of work done in oils to come through as intensely in digital form as on paper.  So I believe these digital picture books might rob young readers of a more desirable artistic experience.

As to the multi-directional feature,  it seems to me that this sort of reading is not good preparation for learning reading fluency and developing the necessary skill of reading from left to right. I think reading from left to right is a good thing — especially for the young picture book crowd. Some of the multi-dimensional effects gave me a headache as pictures zoomed in and out. I guess, though, that today’s children are used to that.

kingwhorainedOne virtue of these books is supposed to be that they offer opportunities for word play, matching, and watching. I think paper picture books can match that. Check out Marvin Terban’s books on word play. Or try The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne (This link enlarges the image at left.) It’s full of illustrated homophones that will promote a chuckle. (It can be found with other concept books here.) As to matching, you don’t really need a story. There are already many games in boxed or digital form that offer that. As to watching, that’s also been done very well on paper. Go back to one of my older blogs and read the review of Over the Steamy Swamp. In that book, every one is watching and being watched.  Another book that involves watching is Rosy’s Walk by Pat Hutchins. It’s humor and irony will have young readers chuckling as they watch the fox watch the hen.

The last proposed advantage of the digital book is story telling. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. Any decent paper picture book tells a story, though some are definitely better than others. If the idea is that it encourages a child to tell a story, there are books that do that, as well. A good example is Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. This wordless picture book follows a woman from the moment she gets out of bed, hungry for pancakes, until she finally eats them at a neighbor’s house. We watch her put on her apron, begin mixing ingredients, gather eggs, milk the cow, churn the butter, go out and buy syrup, walk home with dreams of mixing and cooking and  eating the pancakes, and arrive back to find her cat and dog have spilled the milk and broken the eggs. As she thinks of the pancakes she dreamed of, flying away from the platter, she smells her neighbor cooking some and decides to go and visit. Have your child “read” you this story if he’s not a reader yet, or write the story to go with the pictures if he’s learning to put his thoughts on paper. It requires imagination to “read” this book.

I suppose though, that the main reason I prefer paper is that paper encourages a child to linger over the pictures to appreciate the details, anticipate what comes next, and maybe even discuss the book with the person who might be reading it to him. Digital books, at least in this example, encourage speed and constant moving to keep up with the action. Although the producer says the child controls the story by clicking the “next” button, I imagine the child is in the habit of clicking next as soon as he finishes a screen, rather than lingering. So which is the most interactive experience? Clicking the button  or actually turning physical pages. Watching a screen and clicking, or talking to a real person who may be reading the book to you and discussing it as you go along. I’ll take the book, preferably on the mom’s lap with the child or children cuddling up to her as she leads them on an imaginative journey.

And now that link you’ve been waiting for to see the book.

Guess I’m a Social Networking Junkie

I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in a week on Twitter from those in digital education about the new face of education and how teachers are being encouraged to use computers in their classrooms.

“Twitter is limited to messaging, keeping people on the site an average of just eight minutes per month. Facebook offers far more diversions, with users spending an average of nearly three hours per month on the site, according to Nielsen.” by Verne Kopytoff, Chronicle Staff Writer from Facebook moving into Twitter territory posted 3/14/09

I’ve always wanted to be above average at something, but it’s hard to believe that so many Twitter users average only eight minutes a day, let alone a month. Maybe this is because I’m still in my Twitter honeymoon period, learning the ropes, and finding the right followers and people to follow. I want to connect with home school families and school educators in order to see what’s happening in schools of all types. I’m hoping I can cut down to eight hours a week on Twitter.

Facebook is a different animal altogether. I use it to connect with people I actually know or have gotten to know on Facebook groups. It’s an easy way to keep up with long-distance friends and the everyday lives of those I see once a week. It’s a great way to share photos with people who might want to see them. And it’s  way to let friends know which causes are important to you. I used to spend about two hours a week there, but since Twitter, I’ve cut down to maybe 30 minutes a week.  So maybe I’m approaching average there.

I have to admit I’ve changed my mind about Twitter. I used to think it was where teens kept each other posted on what they were doing all day. There is some of that, but I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in a week on Twitter from those in digital education about the new face of education and how teachers are being encouraged to use computers in their classrooms. I get updates on CPSIA developments, and get links to terrific blogs and videos I would never have found any other way. Come to think of it, it’s not Twitter itself that I’m spending all this time on — it’s all those links it leads to. If you haven’t begun to tweet yet, try it.  You can follow me as barbsbooks and be among the first to find out about sales and new products for educators who are still using books. I’d love to network with you.