The reason children should read from printed books rather than screens

Children should read from books and not screens, researchers have recommended
Children should read from books and not screens, researchers have recommended

Children should read from books and not screens, researchers have recommended after finding print is six times better at boosting comprehension skills.

Many schools now teach pupils using computers, e-readers and tablets but a new analysis suggests it could be damaging to education.

A review of 25 studies involving 470,000 students found digital reading had a negative impact on comprehension for primary and middle school pupils.

Although reading from screens had a more positive impact for high school and university students, it was still far less beneficial than print.

The authors estimate that if a student spends ten hours reading in print in their free time, their ability to comprehend will likely be six to eight times higher than if they read on digital devices for the same amount of time.

Reading comprehension is the ability to read text, process it and understand the meaning and is critical in solving problems, making decisions, and thriving in everyday life.

‘Internet has spawned lower-quality content’

Academics from the University of Valencia suggest that digital reading may hamper comprehension because it is often on a device that services other purposes and can distract readers.

They also argue that the internet has spawned lower-quality content, which is often shorter and fast-paced, with less sophisticated vocabulary.

Lidia Altamura, a PhD student at the University of Valencia, said: “Based on our results, we cannot just assume that all leisure reading will be beneficial for developing readers. The medium used matters.

“For developing readers, leisure digital reading does not seem to pay off in terms of reading comprehension, at least not as much as traditional print reading does.

“We do not go against digital reading. When recommending reading activities schools should emphasise print reading to digital reading, especially for young readers.”

The team also found that the content of digital reading did not change the results.

“We expected that digital leisure reading for informational purposes, such as visiting Wikipedia or other educational webpages, or reading the news, would be much more positively linked to comprehension,” added Miss Altamura.

“But even that was not the case.”

The authors said that educators and parents should encourage students, especially younger ones, to read in print more often than on digital devices.

The study, published in the Review of Educational Research, is the first meta-analysis of research focusing on the specific links between leisure reading habits on digital devices and reading comprehension.

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