from the world's big
Toddlers engage more with print books than ebooks, developmental researchers say
Researchers find that toddlers verbalize and interact more with their parents when reading sessions feature print books, not tablets.
- Neurological development, educational success, social aptitude, the benefits of early reading are well-known.
- A new study finds that print books offer better communication and bonding opportunities for parents and their toddlers.
- While more Americans read print books than ebooks, they still don't make reading a priority outside of work and school.
Look into any toddler's room. Some are decked out in home-team banners and sports paraphernalia, others in dinosaurs and star charts. What you're seeing is less an extension of that toddler's burgeoning personality, but more an alter to the parent's dreams for that child's future. But if there is one thing every toddler's room needs, it's a bookshelf overstuff with colorful spines, big-eyed characters, and dulcet rhymes.
The benefits of early reading are well-known. Reading assists in neurological development. It transmits a love of learning and promotes early academic success (setting the stage for later academic success). It helps maturate positive psychological traits such creativity, confidence, and empathy.
Tech-savvy parents looking to cutback the clutter and shrink that bookshelf into tablet form may want to reconsider. A study recently published in Pediatrics has found that toddlers interact more with print books than ebooks, and those print books will need somewhere to stay.
Analyzing the art of the read
The study's objective was to see if parents and toddlers interacted differently while reading books in various formats. They gathered 37 parent-toddler pairs and had the parents read stories from the Little Critter series in back-to-back sessions, setting a 5-minute time limit for each.
They used a different format for each session: a print book, a basic ebook, and an enhanced ebook (one that comes with music, sound effects, and animated characters). The researchers recorded the sessions to observe the interactions between parent and toddler. These could include discussing the story, asking questions, collaborative reading, positive directions, and negative directions.
The old, gold standard
The study found that print books made the reading experience more collaborative for toddler and parent. Photo credit: Daria Shevtsova / Pexels
The results suggest that toddlers are most engaged when reading a print book. They employed more book-related verbalizations and collaborated more in the process. This goes for parents, too. The adults engaged in more dialogue, asked more questions, and showed greater signs of bonding and sharing the experience with their child.
"The print book is really the gold standard in eliciting positive interactions between parents and their children," Dr. Tiffany Munzer, the study's first author and a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told ABC News. "Parents know their children well and have to make it come alive for their child to create that magic."
Such positive interactions were less frequent with ebooks. However, ebook did show more collaboration in format-specific directions — as in, "You have to swipe it like this" or "No, don't touch that button." In other words, the device itself became an impediment to developing a natural rhythm of learning and relationship.
Perri Klass, a pediatrician who co-wrote the study's accompanying commentary, notes that earlier research has suggested ebook enhancements are disadvantageous for young children. They can diminish story engagement and obstruct text comprehension. This new study suggests that even basic ebooks can be problematic if parents are too busy engaging with the device, not their child.
This realization can be helpful for parents who feel assaulted by new technology promising their child a developmental head start and who lack the funds to experiment with every new gadget emerging in an already crowed market.
"You don't need a lot of bells and whistles to support your child's development," Dr. Suzy Tomopoulos, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine, told the New York times. "Engaging the child and talking to the child does a wonderful job of supporting early child development."
American reading habits
A parent reader engages elementary school children with Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Americans seem to agree with Dr. Munzer that print books truly are the gold standard.
The Pew Research Center has been tracking American reading habits and preferences since 2011. It has found that Americans overwhelmingly prefer print books to other formats. According to its 2018 survey, 67 percent of Americans say they have read a print book in the past year, compared to 26 percent who say they have read an ebook. In total, "three-quarters of Americans (74 percent) have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2012."
But that number becomes less encouraging when you consider that a quarter of Americans admit to not reading a single book. In any format. For 12 whole months. Yikes. And while three-quarters have read at least one book, the typical American only manages four books a year.
Not surprisingly, we don't read a lot of books because we don't make the time. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, Americans spent only 17 minutes a day (yes, that's rounded up) in 2017 reading for purposes other than work or school. That number represents an all time low, and is roughly one-tenth the time Americans spend watching television.
And the kids have followed suit. Scholastic's Kids and Family Reading Report suggests that infrequent child readership — that is, children who read less than one day a week — is on the rise. In 2010, 21 percent of children where deemed infrequent readers. In 2018, it was 28 percent. Frequent readership — children who read nearly every day — fell roughly the same amount, from 37 percent to 31.
If parents really want to teach their children to love reading and read well, print books are a great start. But taking the time to read to them and showing them your own love of reading are just as necessary.
- Are Kids Technology's New Early Adopters? - Big Think ›
- Are You Illiterate If You Don't Know How to Program? - Big Think ›
- 10 reasons Finland's education system is the best - Big Think ›
- Childhood among books affects lifelong cognitive skills - Big Think ›
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT today.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.
- There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
- "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
- "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
A study looks at the performance benefits delivered by asthma drugs when they're taken by athletes who don't have asthma.
- One on hand, the most common health condition among Olympic athletes is asthma. On the other, asthmatic athletes regularly outperform their non-asthmatic counterparts.
- A new study assesses the performance-enhancement effects of asthma medication for non-asthmatics.
- The analysis looks at the effects of both allowed and banned asthma medications.
WADA uncertainty<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDc4NjUwN30.fFTvRR0yJDLtFhaYiixh5Fa7NK1t1T4CzUM0Yh6KYiA/img.jpg?width=980" id="01b1b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2fd91a47d91e4d5083449b258a2fd63f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="urine sample for drug test" />
Image source: joel bubble ben/Shutterstock<p>When inhaled β-agonists first came out just before the 1972 Olympics, they were immediately banned altogether by the WADA as possible doping substances. Over the years, the WADA has reexamined their use and refined the organization's stance, evidence of the thorniness of finding an equitable position regarding their use. As of January 2020, only three β-agonists are allowed — salbutamol, formoterol, and salmeterol —and only in inhaled form. Oral consumption appears to have a greater effect on performance.</p>
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTIzMDQyMX0.Gk4v-7PCA7NohvJjw12L15p7SumPCY0tLdsSlMrLlGs/img.jpg?width=980" id="d3141" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ebe7b30a315aeffcb4fe739095cf0767" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="runner at starting position on track" />
Image source: MinDof/Shutterstock<p>Of primary interest to the authors of the study is confirming and measuring the performance improvement to be gained from β-agonists when they're ingested by athletes who don't have asthma.</p><p>The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 34 existing studies documenting 44 randomized trials reporting on 472 participants. The pool of individuals included was broad, encompassing both untrained and elite athletes. In addition, lab tests, as opposed to actual competitions, tracked performance. The authors of the study therefore recommend taking its conclusions with just a grain of salt.</p><p>The effects of both WADA-banned and approved β-agonists were assessed.</p>
Approved β-agonists and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzkxODk0M30.3RssFwk_tWkHRkEl_tIee02rdq2tLuAePifnngqcIr8/img.jpg?width=980" id="39a99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b1fe4a580c6d4f8a0fd021d7d6570e2a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="vaulter clearing pole" />
Image source: Andrey Yurlov/Shutterstock<p>What the meta-analysis showed is that the currently approved β-agonists didn't significantly improve athletic performance among those without asthma — what very slight benefit they <em>may</em> produce is just enough to prompt the study's authors to write that "it is still uncertain whether approved doses improve anaerobic performance." They note that the tiny effect did increase slightly over multiple weeks of β-agonist intake.</p>
Banned β-agonist and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI3ODU5Mn0.vyoxSE5EYjPGc2ZEbBN8d5F79nSEIiC6TUzTt0ycVqc/img.jpg?width=980" id="de095" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="02fdd42dfda8e3665a7b547bb88007ef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="swimmer mid stroke" />
Image source: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock<p>The study found that for athletes without asthma, however, the use of currently banned β-agonists did indeed result in enhanced performance. The authors write, "Our meta-analysis shows that β2-agonists improve anaerobic performance by 5%, an improvement that would change the outcome of most athletic competitions."</p><p>That 5 percent is an average: 70-meter sprint performance was improved by 3 percent, while strength performance, MVC (maximal voluntary contraction), was improved by 6 percent.</p><p>The analysis also revealed that different results were produced by different methods of ingestion. The percentages cited above were seen when a β-agonist was ingested orally. The effect was less pronounced when the banned substances were inhaled.</p><p>Given the difference between the results for allowed and banned β-agonists, the study's conclusions suggest that the WADA has it about right, at least in terms of selection of allowable β-agonists, as well as the allowable dosage method.</p>