In this article put out by Hechinger report, the author suggests through a small study conducted at NYU that children can have the same level of oral comprehension whether it was delivered by a quality digital platform or by an adult.
Although this may be true (in my humble opinion), having oral comprehension just isn’t enough. One of the magical and important ingredients to reading with children (not just “to”) is being able to address the individual behaviors of the child to make sure that they are understanding more than just the who, what, why, and when and where of the story. Most digital storybooks are not interactive and cannot be differentiated to match the need of the learner. In addition, a major component of reading aloud with children is modeling fluent and expressive language; the majority of “read to me” apps that I have encountered falls flat in this arena. When a child is the audience of a responsive reader, the child is taking in more than just what the words say on the page. They are watching and learning from the reader as they look at the pictures, point out specialized print, and hear how they process the text aloud.
I am not saying that digital storybooks do not have a seat at the table in the reading instruction of children. However, it should be only one slice of the pie. It is important that the primary tool and resource that children have is access to quality books and adults that love to share them.