Reading on paper instead of a screen makes parents more affectionate, according to new research.

Reading on Paper

My son's a big reader, so he asked for a Kindle for his birthday this year—and the bookworm in me was only too happy to oblige. There's nothing I like more than then hanging around the house on a lazy Sunday, him on his tablet, me on mine.

It's technology at its finest, right? But now comes a new study out of the UK, which found that reading actual physical books with your kids makes a parent more affectionate.


Researchers compared the interaction between 24 sets of moms and kids during shared reading on screen and on paper, and found that the physical book sessions were more "loving" than shared tablet reading.

"The interactions of parent and child were found to be different in the video observation of the study," explained researcher Nicola Yull. "When they read from paper rather than a screen, there was a significant increase in the warmth of the parent/child interactions: more laughter, more smiling, more shows of affection."

This reason behind the difference basically comes down to physical positioning—children read from screens with their heads down, which makes it harder for parents to get close. "In contrast, when parents read to their children on paper, they often held the book out to support shared visual engagement, tucking the child cozily under their arms," Yull said. "Some children just listened without trying to see the book, but instead curled themselves up comfortably on the sofa."

I have to admit, it does sound sweet. But does that mean it's time to toss the tablets and go back to reading old school? Yull says it's not a simple either/or scenario, though she does think it may be time for screen designers to go back to the drawing board.

"Books are just books, with a single typical use," she explained. "But screens have many uses, and currently most of these uses are designed round a single user, even if that user is interacting with others remotely. We believe that designers could think more about how such technology can be designed for sharing, and this is especially true for reading, which starts, and ideally continues, as a shared activity in the context of close long-term family relationships."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.