published Monday, October 1st, 2012

Grand Thoughts: At storytime, an app can never take the place of a lap

When I started my career as a newspaper reporter, I typed my stories on an electric typewriter and handed them over to my editor for editing. I was in my mid to late 30s when I was first introduced to computers, so what I know about them I've learned mostly on the job.

So I continue to be amazed at how fast my granddaughters, 5 and 2, are learning to manipulate everything from an iPhone to an iPad to a Kindle Fire, laptop and PC. And they do it with ease.

Though my daughter and I taught them the basics, it's amazing what they have learned through play. Both girls can take photos and videos with the iPhone, and they are at ease with a touchscreen. Like her big sister, the 2-year-old finds her favorite movies on Netflix. She can turn the phone off and on, adjust the volume and change screens.

I have dozens of children's educational and game apps on my iPhone and iPad, as well as apps for children's books. One of their favorites is "The Monster at the End of the Book," featuring Grover from Sesame Street reading the text.

We also have the old-fashioned, Golden Book printed version. It belonged to my children, all of whom are now in their 30s.

When I offer my granddaughters the option of letting them view "The Monster at the End of the Book" on the iPhone/iPad screens or me reading it aloud to them, they always go for the latter.

Technology doesn't embrace a child with loving arms as it's reading a book. I do.

Technology doesn't give them kisses or ask them random questions as it's reading a book. I do.

Technology doesn't change the way it reads the book each time. I do.

No matter how many people stood in line recently for the much-awaited iPhone 5, it would not come close to matching the line of children who would eagerly wait to be the center of attention in their parents' busy lives.

Technology is amazing, and children need to be educated on how it's used. Still, it can never be a substitute for the valuable time spent between parent (or grandparent) and child.

I love that my girls would rather sit on my lap and listen to me read a book than hear Grover tell a story on the iPhone or iPad. And my oldest granddaughter would much rather look for Waldo in a book than on a computer screen (even though the computer version offers tips on finding Waldo).

No matter how old this world gets, nothing will ever take the place of a human lovingly interacting with another human. If you're lucky enough to have children in your life, spending time with them is your best gift. Batteries not required.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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