Notes on the Digital vs Paper Book Debate

Hi there: Wow! A bunch of articles on the value of print books vs digital. Gee, somebody must have some extra time!!!!

The Digital vs Book debate continues to rage. I teach and many of my students are either ESL, second generation English learners or remedial students. My opinion is that ESL, remedial and young students should all have paper books. Digital only if they want them. Why?

Young children, who are learning to read, love to hold the books in their hands, turn the pages, Pat the Bunny (you parents know that one,) and then, read it again, again and again. That is a very common trait with very young readers; they love it repeated. So, let them!

What about remedial and ESL? Anyone who is struggling with reading, the language and comprehension, needs to stop, regroup and then reread the paragraph, passage, page, etc. They will want to ‘mark it up’ and make notes to themselves in the margins. It is common for this group to have a ‘favorite page’ or a ‘reference page’. This might be an actual reference page with things like verb conjugations, verb tenses, grammar forms, etc. This type of study is virtually impossible with a digital book. In addition, publishers to schools frequently ‘rent’ the book for a specific time and then pull the book back at the end of term. Therefore, the student then has no book for reference later.

Lastly – Money, Money, Money makes the world go round. Didn’t I hear that in a movie? Because I’m a teacher and need stuff (!) I currently have 3 computers at home; two that are mine and one from the school. I have an Ipad, a Smart phone, two Kindles that don’t work and two cell phones that don’t work. My excuse is, well, they don’t work do they?

In March of 2020, our school shut down because of Covid 19 and went completely virtual. Many of our students come from low-income backgrounds. Not surprisingly, many did not have computers, proper Smart phones, Internet, cameras, microphones, etc. Therefore, connect the dots gang, they could barely attend classes and many either failed or opted out with incompletes or withdrawals. You don’t have to have two Phd’s to get the point that yes, many people do not have the money to have all the equipment and gear ‘going digital’ requires. Our school is trying to help them out with loans of computers, great, what if they don’t have Internet at home? How about their embarrassment when they have to admit to teacher/costudents they can’t afford these ‘basic’ items.

So, wouldn’t a paper book be easier, just in case all the power does go out at your house? That’s all fer now, Courtney Webb, MA

copyright Courtney E. Webb 2019 – use by permission only.


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