Promoting Literacy in the Digital Age
So, then, are e-books the "answer" when it comes to children and books? Robinson believes that cultivating a love of reading still starts with a great story. "We make it our goal to find great books with compelling stories and characters that are relevant for today's kids, regardless of whether we deliver them in print or digitally," he says.
As an example, he points to the success of Scholastic's "The 39 Clues," a series that includes print books (8.5 million copies of the series are in print), an online world where kids become part of the stories, and collectible cards, which Robinson says "broke new ground" in the children's book market. "As we expand reading options and engage our young readers, we will continue to promote the excitement of reading so reading can compete with and be complemented with games and videos, and whatever new digital attraction appears in their world," he says.
Another consideration when producing e-books for children is that the current e-reading devices generally are not optimal for these types of books, which often rely heavily on graphics and illustrations. Robinson believes that the appropriate technologies are key to engaging young readers. "The needs of children on electronic devices are quite different from the functionality that the current dedicated e-readers provide. We know from listening to our young customers what they want: color, a real voice (not a simulated voice), and some animation and reading supports," he says, noting that Scholastic is preparing to launch its own e-reader software application this school year that "will give children a tailor-made e-book experience designed just for them."
"Those kids who may be more inclined to technology than to printed books are likely to find that the printed word takes on new interest on the right device, loaded with the right e-reading software," he adds.