I was reluctant to buy an e-reader. If it hadn’t been a gift from my husband, I probably wouldn’t have one today. Books made of trees are quickly becoming relics, and I feel nostalgic whenever I hold one. As a history-lover, I am drawn to symbols of the past, but even I must admit that these items are incompatible with my modern life. Apart from children’s books, I have finally realized the kind of books that leave papercuts are more of a burden than a treasure. In my household, where the children outnumber the adults, e-books are a better fit for several reasons:
- Babies take up a lot of space and e-books do not. Babies may be little, but they require a lot of stuff: diapers, wipes, clothes, boppies, toys, etc, and their stuff has reduced the amount of space available to store other items. An e-reader is able to store far more books than my bookshelf ever could. Plus, that room we thought would be a library will actually be a child’s bedroom instead.
- Raising children is expensive and e-books are not. A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that it costs middle-income families (making between $59,400 and $102,870) about $235,000 to raise a child for 17 years, not including college tuition. So, for those of us with a tendency to impulse purchase books but a need to reduce overall costs, investing in an e-reader makes sense. Digital books, especially indie books, tend to cost less than the paper variety, presumably because it takes fewer resources to download an e-book than it does to print, store, and ship an actual book. Another way to reduce the cost of books is to visit the library–a great place to take the kids–but finding the time to make the trip is often difficult to do.
- Babies are cute, but they are also destructive. Sometimes it seems like my 16-month-old (pictured above) loves my books more than I do. She loves the way they taste, the way they feel and sound as the pages rip between her fingers, and the way they look covered in crayon. What I believe is great literature, she believes is a hat, relaxing the binding until the pages fall out. It’s harder for her to destroy my e-reader, as long as I keep glasses of water far out of her reach!
Now that I’ve learned to love my e-reader, our home library hasn’t grown much (excluding children’s books, of course). In time, it won’t look like anyone with a reading level above elementary school lives here. I’ve wondered whether this dearth of actual books will affect the literacy environment in our house. Studies have connected the number of books for adults in a house to children’s literacy, finding that, “parents’ commitment to scholarly culture, manifest by a large home library, greatly enhances their children’s educational attainment.”
In addition to having a large library (and reading books to children directly), it is important that children notice their parents reading. That’s the part that gives me pause. Do my children (particularly my young toddler) understand that my Kindle is the equivalent of a book, and that it’s not the same as “playing” on my computer or ipad? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure whether it matters much. Books remain an integral part of our homelife, even if my children can’t see them lying around anymore. That will be normal for them, as the world in which they are growing up continues to have fewer paper books and more smartphones and tablets. I can’t even imagine how light their backpacks are going to be. Lucky ducks.