Q: My holiday tradition is to give my grandkids books as stocking stuffers. Now most of them have tablets. Is the pleasure of choosing and wrapping books for them over? Please give me guidance on selecting e-books. How does the transaction work?
A: What a wonderful tradition! Studies by Clemson University reading expert Linda Gambrell show that having access to books outside of school and owning books both increase children's motivation to read.
You don't need to give up your tradition, says Carl Harvey, library media specialist at North Elementary School in Noblesville, Ind. "If there are early readers on your list, you can't go wrong choosing a classic print book. Most love a great picture book or chapter book. While they certainly enjoy digital/e-books, there still is something about having a book in your hand."
As young readers grow, they like to choose their leisure reading. "It's motivating to select books based on their interests or a series that really hooks them," says Harvey. If you want to add titles to their tablets, "know that devices are designed for individual use, so it is hard to buy for another user. The best route is gift cards. They allow the child or parent to load them onto the device and purchase as needed."
Before purchasing, learn what type of device your grandkids have, says Harvey. For example, iPads use the iBooks app, so books can be purchased through Apple's iTunes store. If your grandchild has a Nook, books can be purchased through Barnes and Noble. For a Kindle, they can be purchased through Amazon.
"Often gift cards work for other purchases on the device, such as games and other apps. If you want to focus on reading, make sure to let the child -- and parents -- know that you'd prefer it be used for books," suggests Harvey.
What makes e-books especially appealing to children is the ability to enjoy rich content. "Both Android and Apple iOS devices also have apps you can download for various books that expand the content. They have added features such as links, read-alouds and games. Again, gift cards allow children to buy the ones they want."
Annual publications, such as almanacs and atlases, are also available in e-book format. "It really is a personal preference whether to buy a print or an online version," says Harvey. "Come January, some children love to tote to school the almanac Santa brought. Others love the added features of the e-book, such as interactive maps and graphs and search functions that might make the online version preferable over the print."
When it comes to price, most e-books are the same or a little cheaper than print books.
If your grandkids are nearby, suggests Harvey, take them to a bookstore and browse together. "Family members don't realize that kids want the gift of your time. If they aren't nearby, arrange a Skype or FaceTime session where they read to you.
"Both will show your grandkids that you value reading. That's an important gift to give a child."
(Do you have a question about your child's education? Email it to Leanna@aplusadvice.com. Leanna Landsmann is an education writer who began her career as a classroom teacher. She has served on education commissions, visited classrooms in 49 states to observe best practices, and founded Principal for a Day in New York City.)