A Case for Letting Kids Read Books on Digital Devices

levar burton kids

The following is a guest blog from LeVar Burton.

With the debut of each new technology for storytelling, we hear ourselves worrying that this may finally be the "death of reading and of books." It happened with radio, TV, and now of course apps, video games, and all the other endless digital distractions. What will happen to reading ... to books? I have say, I don't share this concern. Storytelling is as old as mankind and really began around the fire when we were ancient hunter/gatherers. Humans need to share stories. From fireside stories to plays to movies and of course books, we have always had, and always will, have stories to tell. 

The technology for how we do it will change, but the need to read, to immerse ourselves in a shared story, will not.


Books themselves were a storytelling evolution that really only came into mass use over the last few hundred years. As we went from societies where only the very elite were capable or even allowed to read to near universal literacy, our capacity to read is now widespread. Similarly, books, once precious and expensive and relegated to religious institutions, have now been available to almost everyone for a reasonable cost and on nearly every subject. For children of the Digital Generation, they will continue to read as long we continue to create good stories. It’s not the medium, but the message that’s important. For 30 years Reading Rainbow focused on and created a passion for books, though it came to kids on their (then) device of choice, TV.

Whenever I am asked, "How do I get my kid to like reading?” I answer the same way ... "Let them read whatever they enjoy." Nowadays I amend that to say "and however they enjoy it." Whether it’s Harry Potter or superhero comics, whether in a printed book or on an app or e-reader, just encourage them to read the things they like. The "important" will come later only if, while young, they find success and pleasure reading anything now. It has never been the medium, it has always been the message. But you don't have to take my word for it.

LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they can “go anywhere, be anything.”

Learn more about Reading Rainbow and the free Reading Rainbow App at ReadingRainbow.com.

Read More >