Books Unbound

I got the new Children’s Book Council newsletter in the mail today and settled down to read it over lunch. The article by Jean Gralley, Digital Picture Books: Breaking the Paper Habit caught my attention and got me thinking. Gralley presents a very persuasive argument for the develop of digital picture books — see her sample at — and I’m curious to know what my KidLit friends out there think. I was totally caught up in Gralley’s digital example, but have to admit that I was mesmerized to the point of losing focus by the end. The possibilities for a new picture book art form in the digital world are endless, and her example combines simple digital features with two factors that mean a lot to paper readers — the reader still reads, and the reader controls the action (instead of turning a pager, the reader clicks “Go” to move forward.

However, Gralley doesn’t address another factor that I think is just as important – the physical setting and act of reading. When I was reading picture books to my kids, it was usually in bed, with me propped against the headboard and them in my arms while I held the book in front of us. That’s a closeness that you cannot fake. Is there a computer or digital reader out there that will mimic the physical attributes of a book and allow Moms & Dads to easily hold their kids while they read?  Or for that matter, allow a children’s librarian to hold a story in front of a group and read without breaking his or her arms?

Although I am completely fascinated by the concept and will watch its development, I wonder how the rise of digital picture books jibes with this article by Anastasia Goodstein on Ypulse about Kim John Payne and his research on the effects of “screen time” on ADHD children (excerpt follows):

We did a research piece into ADHD, and one of the three main requests that we made of our parents was to go screen-free for a period of four months. There was also a lessening of the schedule, lightening and simplification of the schedule, and dietary changes, simplifying diet. So it was simplifying information, simplifying diet, simplifying schedule. Sixty-eight percent of the kids — these were all diagnosed ADHD, all that stuff, none of them were on Ritalin. We asked them all of come off drugs. Sixty-eight percent of the kids went from clinically dysfunctional to functional in five months. And this is not using any drugs. When we combed through the information, what we found was that one of the single largest factors that parents reported in their weekly logbooks that made the most significant changes was going screen-free.When I’m talking about screen-free I’m not just talking about television, I’m talking about the lot [cell phones, computers, etc]. As parents went closer and closer to screen-free the kids got less and less hyperactive.

I think this says a lot about the need for time away from screens, yet is that going to be possible in the next decade? I don’t think so.