Is a Kindle Paperwhite Right for Your Child?

When the Kindle was first released in 2007, it was expensive and available books were limited primarily to novels — thus it was considered by many to be a device for adult readers, not children and students. Since then, much has changed and the Kindle is widely adopted in schools and colleges. Young readers own their own Kindles and tote them to camp, school, and sleepovers. For many children who have resisted reading, owning a Kindle has changed their outlook and truly "Kindled" a new love for books.

So, you've bought a Kindle Paperwhite and love the e-ink screen and built-in light. Now you're thinking you want to buy one for your child. Before you do so, consider the following factors:

  • Age: The Kindle Paperwhite is a grayscale device, so it is not ideal for young children reading pictures books. In addition, young children won't understand that the Kindle Paperwhite is breakable and needs to be handled with care. As a general rule, if a child is reading chapter books, he or she is probably old enough to handle a Kindle Paperwhite safely.

    If you have a Kindle Fire, you might investigate using that to read picture books to a young child. Also, the Paperwhite's built-in light makes it the perfect device to use when reading chapter books and beloved favorites aloud at bedtime. Don't be afraid to experiment and see what your child enjoys.

    Many reading experts suggest reading books to your children slightly above their current reading level. You can discuss new words and concepts and use the dictionary to look up definitions.

  • Track record with electronic devices: Following on the preceding bullet point, how has your child fared with electronic devices in the past? Has he or she dropped, broken, or lost them? The front of the Kindle Paperwhite is about 95 percent screen and can be easily broken. Keep this in mind as you consider a purchase for your child.

  • Interest in reading: The case studies about the success rate of Kindles in schools would lead you to believe that all children magically become avid readers once the device is placed in their hands. The novelty of the device does intrigue many children and encourage them to read. At the same time, parental involvement is also part of successfully using a Kindle to encourage a reluctant reader to become more engaged with books. Note that many educators consider children aged 7 to 11 to be at the ideal age to develop a lifelong love of reading. A marker for readiness is the transition from picture books to chapter books.

Remember that our children are digital natives and have grown up with technology. They take to it more easily than those of us who are (ahem!) a bit older.

If you decide to go ahead and purchase a Kindle for your child, remember the following points:

  • Protective covers: Buy a protective cover and encourage your child to use it. As noted, Kindles are fragile and need to be treated with care. If your child prefers to read the device out of a cover, make sure he or she has some sort of protective envelope or sleeve for storage during nonreading times.

  • Backpack packing: Even with a cover, a Kindle Paperwhite could be crushed or damaged if tossed carelessly in a backpack with a load of heavy books. Look through your child's backpack with him or her and designate a specific pocket as its "home" to be used when the backpack is carried.

  • Kindle at school or camp: If your child hopes to take her Kindle to school or camp (or somewhere else), take a few minutes to contact the administrator and make sure this is okay. Policies vary widely and change frequently. The use of personal electronic devices, such as Kindles, may be discouraged or prohibited due to issues of theft or competition among children. On the other hand, a school may have a Kindle program in place but not enough devices for all students — and the teachers would be thrilled to have your child bring his or her own device. You'll never know unless you ask.

    You can also be an advocate for Kindle use in your child's school. If the administrators or teachers are not familiar with the device and how it can be used, take advantage of this teachable moment. Let them know how much you enjoy your Kindle Paperwhite and why you think it would enhance the learning environment in their classrooms.

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