• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Learning Differences > E-Readers: Replacement or Complement for Traditional Books?
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    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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E-Readers: Replacement or Complement for Traditional Books?

Learning Differences

We all know that the e in e-reader stands for electronic, but for some it might mean educational, entertaining, or even eek! E-reader use is definitely becoming more popular among kids according to this news story. On the other hand, a school in Silicon Valley does not allow technology in the classroom and also discourages it at home.

Curious about how others feel about this hot topic, I asked a half dozen questions to a dozen or so of my friends and associates. A compilation of their answers follows. In order to respect privacy, only first names are used for respondents who are not members of  the From The Mixed Up Files blog.

photo courtesy of Sheri Goad

(Photo courtesy of Sheri Goad)

1. Do your children have access to or own their own e-reader?  The number of children with personal e-readers tallied just over half of those who shared a device with other family members. One respondent’s family did not use e-readers at all.

2. What do your children primarily use the device for?  Pleasure reading was the most common use for e-readers, schoolwork was a close second, and game playing came in third.

3. What do you think are the major pros/cons of e-readers?  The respondents cited portability, space saving capability, and easy accessibility to reading material as the most common pros of owning e-readers.

 Milli explained that the issue of space was the primary reason she bought her eleven-year-old son an e-reader. Her book-loving son was running out of room to store his growing collection. Milli states, “I do think he has more access to books because he is able to browse them on his own and is not dependent on me to take him to the library or store.”

Laurie Schneider, a Mixed Up Files member and mom to an e-reading thirteen-year-old girl, says, “It’s great if you’re reading a series book and finish a volume late at night. A few clicks and you can be onto the next volume.”

Ester, mom of three, says, “A really big plus to the e-reader is that with all the apps available, it makes it easy to download books to your computer, iPhone, or Kindle. Therefore, you can always have your books available. While one child reads on the Kindle, the other can read on your computer or phone.

Another Mixed Up Files member, Sayantani DasGupta, who does not currently own an e-reader, states, “E-readers cross my mind every time we travel because our luggage is always so weighed down by books.

Keri, mom to one son,  says that she likes the fact that e-readers are “green,” and that books cost less. However, she also points out that “new authors and titles will be harder to find.” Like Sayantani, Keri points out the portability of an e-reader. Her son, an only child, reads most while traveling to visit his father. “Books offer great company,” Keri says. “He uses his imagination more.”

Another common con sited was breakability.  According to Laurie’s daughter, “If you drop it, it breaks!” On the other hand, Keri states that her “typical boy” is prone to losing or damaging stuff, but “that doesn’t happen with an e-reader.” Apparently, damage control varies per kid, but the cost and fragile nature of e-readers are definitely points to consider.

A variety of drawbacks to e-reader use were also noted. Jan, mom to a twelve year old daughter, says her daughter “misses the ability to tell how far along she is in the book. With the Nook, there is no warning that the end is coming.”

Both Amanda, mom to Marijke, and Doreen, mom to Jack, listed lack of Internet filtering as a shortcoming for e-readers. Doreen wishes that there were a color version of an e-reader without internet access.

Although a few parents listed the cool factor as a plus, Sayantani thinks it could also be a minus. She states concerns about “privilege and consumer culture,”  and feels that an e-reader may be “one more expensive thing to own and measure your wealth/privilege by with another child.

When asked to list the disadvantages of e-readers, Sheri, mom to three sons, says “They aren’t real books.You can’t put the pages in your fingers, or decorate your book shelves. If your battery dies you are out of luck. You can’t pass along a book to a friend, and it is certainly not the same when you are reading them to a group of kids.

4. Do you think e-readers will replace traditional books? How do you feel about that? The general consensus among the group was that traditional books would indeed survive. However, the opinions as to why varied greatly, and some respondents brought up some unique issues.

Amanda says, “I don’t think they (e-readers) will completely replace traditional books because the reading experience is different, and some stories just need to be read in a traditional manner.

Kim, mom to Brandon age ten, says, “We still love books in print. Nothing can replace the smell and feel of a book. There will always be a place for them, although I do think with ebook players going down in price, more and more kids will be using them.”

Jan thinks that traditional books will last because, “With a normal book, I can own it, give it away, sell it at a used booked store, turn it into a work of art if I want to. With an e-book, I can read it. Period. And if any licensing issues pop up, the bookstore can ‘take it back,’ something they don’t really have the option of doing with a book on my bookshelf.

Deb Marshall, a Mixed Up Files member, answered the questions based on her work with a book club for eight to twelve year olds. “These kids are a generation comfortable with technology but still hooked into hard copy books. They love being able to hold the real book. I think that’s great. They can experience the best of both worlds.

Laurie, who grew up near three paper mills has mixed feelings about the prospect of e-readers replacing traditional books. “I know what mills do the environment. On the other hand, I’m a book person. I love the look, feel, and even the smell of books. As a teenager, I imagined myself wandering among the book people with Montag at the end of FARENHEIT 451.

Sheri believes that traditional books will survive. “E-readers offer a great convenience, but let’s face it; they aren’t books. Kids enjoy going to a bookstore and looking through the shelves until the right book jumps off the shelf and demands to go home. E-readers have a place, but I don’t think it’s a “replace.”

5.  If your child has any particular learning disabilities or special needs, do you find that the e-reader holds an advantage  over traditional books? 

Kim replies that e-books help her son because “he can make the font larger and also listen to the books.” Jan also mentions that it’s easier to “isolate focus” by making the font larger.

Doreen’s son likes being able to “look up a word at the touch of a button, instead of skipping it, looking it up in a real dictionary, or asking someone what it means.” However, Doreen feels Jack may also be distracted by other features of the e-readers such as “playing games, searching for and adding apps, and seeing what other things it can do.

On the other hand, Amanda finds that when her daughter, Marijke reads a traditional book, “she fidgets with the corners of the pages and reads out loud. When she reads from the Kindle, she reads silently, doesn’t fidget as much, and seems more focused.”

“I have two children with dyslexia,” explains Ester. “For them, I think our e-reader is an advantage. Our e-reader has a text to speech button which allows them to follow along as the e-reader reads the text on the page. It is something I usually do not encourage, but it’s nice to know it is available if they ned it. It allows them to listen to the pronunciation of words that they may be struggling with.”

Joanne Prushing  Johnson, an occupational therapist and Mixed Up Files member, works with students on the autism spectrum. She hopes that e-books will become “interactive and encourage children to research ideas that the books they are reading inspire, learn strategies to better analyze text for information or concepts like them, and keep reluctant readers motivated to turn the page.”   

6. Do you have any other comments about children and e-readers you would like to share?

Marie, mom to two girls, states that her children only use her Kindle for vocabulary work. She’d consider allowing them to read from it; however, she also states, “I really don’t want to skip the experience of bookstores, libraries, and research at this age. I feel those are some essential steps. I am thinking of my experience as a bookkeeper. If the computer went down, I would have to be able to go to paper and record transactions to keep the business going. I am thinking the same concept for the girls. What if these electronic resources were not available? I want them to have the know-how first, and then they can indulge in electronic efficiency.

Milli adds, “I think that e-readers are great, but it is also nice to be able to hold and smell the pages of a real book. For the love of reading is developed more from example set by parents and time set aside by parents to share a story. All children love to get attention from their parents and what better way to do than with a story.”

Joanne says, “I think it is normal to feel nostalgic about traditional books, and I think there will be a need for them for many years. But I also think that it is possible that as much as many worry that technology will decrease reading, it could also open a lot of doors for people who don’t relate to reading or who struggle with reading. Although screen time could be viewed as a passive activity, it could also become more interactive than books for kids who find reading boring or hard.”

You may be wondering what my take on e-readers is, and honestly, I don’t know. But after reading all the responses I received to my questions, I must say I’m leaning more toward purchasing one than I had in the past. I’ve resisted purchasing an e-reader, partly because of the cost and partly because I didn’t want to contribute to a trend that could signal the demise of books. However, from the responses here, you can see that several die hard e-reader users are not predicting the death of the ink and paper book any time soon.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this post. The answers were excellent and certainly got me to thinking. Readers, what would your answers to these six questions be? Let us know in the comment section below.

Lill Pluta has had numerous short pieces published in the magazine and educational markets, as well as one picture book and a series of board books. She also once won a rather hefty prize for writing a poem about mustard. She is currently living her dream, writing middle grade novels with a magical twist, in a beach town where she resides with her husband, two sons, and trio of cats.

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