March 28, 2023

On Reading with Kids on the iPad, Mixed Feelings Persist Among Parents



While the vast majority of parents who own an iPad use it to read ebooks with their children, moms and dads like some aspects of the digital reading experience more than others, according to a new study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Overall, the “QuickReport” of 500 iPad owners with children ages two to six found that most of these parents still prefer reading print books with their kids and believe their children feel the same way.

Following up an earlier “Print vs E-books QuickStudy,” Cooney researchers, Sarah Vaala and Lori Takeuchi assessed both how families use ebooks for co-reading, as well as their perceptions and expectations about reading ebooks with their kids.

Some key findings:

“iPad owners who read e-books with their children see certain features as helpful for early readers, and others as distracting.” Looking at six features commonly found in kids’ ebooks and book apps, parent respondents liked the audio elements and felt they were most useful for helping kids learn to read. The ability to click a word to sound it out was especially popular. Games and videos, on the other hand, were found to be distracting from the reading experience.

“Parents with iPads vary in their perceptions and expectations of the experience of reading e-books with their children.” Survey respondents who choose to read with their kids using the Apple tablet tend to feel that it can help children read independently. Parents who choose not to read using the device prefer their kids read print books. Interestingly, 34.4 percent say that reading with children is just too difficult on an ereader.

“Perhaps most interestingly, reading ebooks has not replaced reading print books together in families with iPads.” Even among parents who enjoy reading digital titles with their kids, the majority still opts for print books over digital for this experience. Convenience, however, appears to be a factor. Ebooks are preferred for co-reading with children when traveling or commuting. And parents frequently hand their children an ebook, if they have something else they have to attend to.

The complete report is available on the Cooney Center site.

Illustration by Baiba Baiba for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center.

Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka (, @kishizuka on Twitter) is Executive Editor of School Library Journal.


  1. Vicki Kouchnerkavich says:

    My almost 2 yr old grandson will happily sit for a book on my iPad such as Byron Barton’s “Boat” and “Airplane” or Sandra Boynton’s “The Going to Bed Book”. His touch skills and understanding that he can turn the page or touch an item on the page to make it do something has steadily improved over the last few months. His mother has also immersed him in hardcopy books, which he uses throughout the house. I believe there is a place for both formats of books, yet I can see with technology things will be evolving with the ebooks overtime. It’s not a bad thing, just different.