There’s a lot of interest right now in pediatrics in figuring out how electronic media affects young kids’ brains, learning styles and habits — especially toddlers who are attempting to get a handle on spoken language. There is also ongoing interest in how relationships with good books and stories affects their cognitive and social growth.


A lot of contemporary parents find nothing wrong with plonking little kids, regardless of age, in front of TV sets, tablets or iPhones to keep them entertained, ignoring or ignorant of recent research about parent child interaction from the ages of 10 to 16 months. It was found that when they were playing with electronic and digital toys, both parents and children used fewer words or vocalisations than they did with traditional toys.


Evoking Language


Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioural paediatrician and assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, is one of the authors of a new American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on media use for children from birth to age 5.


“Preschool children learn better when there’s an adult involved,” she said. “They learn better when there are not distracting digital elements, especially when those elements are not relevant to the story line or the learning purpose.”


So what about the interactive digital picture books that have all the best kids’ books covered?


It was stressed that especially for children with language delays, certain features of electronic books that reinforce the connection between image and word (for example, animated pictures) may help children integrate information, but that distracting features and games may cause cognitive overload, which gets in the way of learning.


Paediatricians worried, of course, that screen time might displace parent-child time. Brain imaging of young kids has suggested that: “hearing stories evokes visual images in children’s brains, and more strongly if those children are accustomed to being read to.”


To the annoyance of plonk-style parents, it was suggested that all older children should not use digital devices more than two hours a day — preferably less — and that all screens for children under two be discouraged.


There is also debate about educational digital stuff.


Dr. Bernard Dreyer, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a professor of paediatrics at NYU says that even high-quality educational electronic content shouldn’t crowd out the other parts of childhood.


“Unstructured, unplugged playtime is very important for all children and especially very young children.”


Toddlers’ Library Favourites


Lots of our customers with young kids who believe in the value of daily face-to-face reading of picture books to their offspring also believe that it’s important for the kids to have lots of good books in their bedrooms.


We digitally canvassed a few to ascertain their toddlers’ past or present all-time favourites. Popular titles include:


Sheep in the Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw and Margot Apple, which is full of laugh-aloud rhymes that children never seem to tire of.


How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and David Shannon, about an ocean voyage where no one eats vegetables and bedtimes are for babies and where, at first, life is a raucous adventure.


Walter, the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray and Audrey Colman. About a dog rescued from the pound. He is full of obnoxious gas but is saved from being sent back when he rescues the children. It’s a compellingly funny series.


Robert Sabuda’s luscious pop-up books should be on every small or big kid’s shelves, and the best to start with is Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-Up, which is set in a pastry shop and is a counting book involving cookies and mice. One mother says that it’s best to buy two copies — one for the toddler to love to death in four minutes and one for her to read just out of small finger reach.


It would be a crime if any toddler missed out on Corduroy, a shabby bear tale by Don Freeman; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown which is every parent's special favourite to put kids to bed; the photographic Busy Penguins by John Schindel which has inventive rhyming word pairs; and Gossie by Oliver Dunrea about a yellow gosling who loves her red boots to death and wears them every day until they suddenly disappear. She searches under the bed, over the wall, in the barn and beneath the hens until she discovers them on the feet of a smaller gosling.


All parents with fiercely independent toddlers will appreciate Elivia Savadier’s Time to Get Dressed.


Truong Hoang is behind the much-loved book shop, Bookworm. For more info click on or visit their shop at 44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

Truong Bookworm

Truong comes from a family of fisher folk and has been the owner manager of the Bookworm since 2006. Apart from being a book-o-phile he loves to explore Vietnam by bicycle and motorbike. His latest travel passion is tracing the contours of the Vietnamese coastline on foot. He’s also a sustainability fan and has a green home with a rooftop garden near the Duong River.

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