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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.
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How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
It's hard to stop looking back and forth between these faces and the busts they came from.
- A quarantine project gone wild produces the possibly realistic faces of ancient Roman rulers.
- A designer worked with a machine learning app to produce the images.
- It's impossible to know if they're accurate, but they sure look plausible.
How the Roman emperors got faced<a href="https://payload.cargocollective.com/1/6/201108/14127595/2K-ENGLISH-24x36-Educational_v8_WATERMARKED_2000.jpg" ><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ2NDk2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTUzMzIxMX0.OwHMrgKu4pzu0eCsmOUjybdkTcSlJpL_uWDCF2djRfc/img.jpg?width=980" id="775ca" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="436000b6976931b8320313478c624c82" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="lineup of emperor faces" data-width="1440" data-height="963" /></a>
Credit: Daniel Voshart<p>Voshart's imaginings began with an AI/neural-net program called <a href="https://www.artbreeder.com" target="_blank">Artbreeder</a>. The freemium online app intelligently generates new images from existing ones and can combine multiple images into…well, who knows. It's addictive — people have so far used it to generate nearly 72.7 million images, says the site — and it's easy to see how Voshart fell down the rabbit hole.</p><p>The Roman emperor project began with Voshart feeding Artbreeder images of 800 busts. Obviously, not all busts have weathered the centuries equally. Voshart told <a href="https://www.livescience.com/ai-roman-emperor-portraits.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Live Science</a>, "There is a rule of thumb in computer programming called 'garbage in garbage out,' and it applies to Artbreeder. A well-lit, well-sculpted bust with little damage and standard face features is going to be quite easy to get a result." Fortunately, there were multiple busts for some of the emperors, and different angles of busts captured in different photographs.</p><p>For the renderings Artbreeder produced, each face required some 15-16 hours of additional input from Voshart, who was left to deduce/guess such details as hair and skin coloring, though in many cases, an individual's features suggested likely pigmentations. Voshart was also aided by written descriptions of some of the rulers.</p><p>There's no way to know for sure how frequently Voshart's guesses hit their marks. It is obviously the case, though, that his interpretations look incredibly plausible when you compare one of his emperors to the sculpture(s) from which it was derived.</p><p>For an in-depth description of Voshart's process, check out his posts on <a href="https://medium.com/@voshart/photoreal-roman-emperor-project-236be7f06c8f" target="_blank">Medium</a> or on his <a href="https://voshart.com/ROMAN-EMPEROR-PROJECT" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a>.</p><p>It's fascinating to feel like you're face-to-face with these ancient and sometimes notorious figures. Here are two examples, along with some of what we think we know about the men behind the faces.</p>
Caligula<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ2NDk4Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MzQ1NTE5NX0.LiTmhPQlygl9Fa9lxay8PFPCSqShv4ELxbBRFkOW_qM/img.jpg?width=980" id="7bae0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ce795c554490fe0a36a8714b86f55b16" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="992" data-height="558" />
One of numerous sculptures of Caligula, left
Nero<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ2NTAwMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTQ2ODU0NX0.AgYuQZzRQCanqehSI5UeakpxU8fwLagMc_POH7xB3-M/img.jpg?width=980" id="a8825" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9e0593d79c591c97af4bd70f3423885e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="992" data-height="558" />
One of numerous sculptures of Nero, left
A popular and longstanding wave of thought in psychology and psychotherapy is that diagnosis is not relevant for practitioners in those fields.
Scientists regenerate damaged spinal cord nerve fibers with designer protein, helping paralyzed mice walk again.
- Researchers from Germany use a designer protein to treat spinal cord damage in mice.
- The procedure employs gene therapy to regenerate damaged nerve fibers that carry signals to and from the brain.
- The scientists aim to eventually apply the technique to humans.