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Paper Because

Learning is more rewarding on paper.

In many households, the fridge is a showcase for achievement. A gallery where primitive art is proudly displayed beside written accolades, where anyone looking for a snack can admire and commend!

This classic family tradition remains alive today thanks to another classic: paper. Whether the artist’s technique features macaroni, papier-mâché, finger paint or glitter, paper is usually there providing the trusty background. And what about that glowing first report card or graduation diploma from kindergarten? They’re printed too, making them treasured memories to frame or put in an album – after a requisite stint on the fridge, of course!

Even in this age of e-learning toys and reading tablets, paper still plays a fundamental role childhood development. The visual and tactile properties of paper give the young mind immediate rewards. A child deals directly with the medium, not by clicking on a mouse or tapping on a keyboard but by getting their hands dirty and sticky creating a masterpiece. In the case of some troubled kids, creating their own art has been shown to provide them with an effective way to express their emotions and develop a feeling of self-pride.1

The immediacy of paper is also a big part of the ongoing popularity of printed children’s books. In fact, while sales of e-books for adults continue to rise, titles aimed at the under 8 market remain static. They represent less than 5% of total annuals sales of children’s books, several publishers have estimated, compared to more than 25% in some categories of adult books.2

This seems proof positive that today’s tech loving parents still acknowledge the importance of reading printed books as part of the bonding experience with their kids and in helping them learn certain basics. Alexandra Tyler, a mom who reads her own books in digital format, believes that story time just wouldn’t be the same on an electronic tablet. “When you read a book, a proper kid’s book, it engages all the senses. It’s teaching them to turn the page properly. You get the smell of paper, the touch.” 2 Ari Wallach, a dad and New York entrepreneur who helps companies update their technology, goes a step further: “I feel that learning with books is as important a rite of passage, as learning to eat with utensils and being potty-trained.”2

Interestingly enough, many parents in the Silicon Valley, arguably the world’s hub of technology, feel much the same about the teaching properties of traditional paper tools over electronics. In fact, one of the favored institutions in the area is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, where the reigning philosophy is that computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.3

One of the school’s students, a boy whose father works at Google, sums up why he thinks learning on paper is better and more rewarding: “You can look back and see how sloppy your handwriting was in first grade. You can’t do that with computers ‘cause all the letters are the same. Besides, if you learn to write on paper, you can still write if water spills on the computer or the power goes out.”3 Simple yet true.

But the rewards of paper accompany kids far beyond their first sticker collection or early reading and writing experiences. There are plenty of occasions all along their educational journey that are made official – and special – thanks to the printed word. Think of the certificate attesting to their brown belt in karate. That “A+” paper they wrote for history class. Their driving learner’s permit. The letter of acceptance from their favored college. And even their college diploma.

All of these are more than mere pieces of paper, they are hallmarks of life’s achievements so far. And that makes them fridge worthy no matter how old you are!

1   Chute, Eleanor. Art helps troubled kids: Painting provides youth a creative outlet and gives them something to be proud of. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, December 26, 2009
2   Richtel, Matt and Bosman, Julie. For their Children, Many E-book Fans Insist on Paper. New York Times, November 20, 2011
3   Richtel, Matt. A Silicon Valley School that Doesn’t Compute. New York Times, October 22, 2011

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