How has technology changed children’s reading?

While most of us remember learning to read on paper books, tracing the words on the page with our fingers and enjoying the images next to the text, this is an increasingly outdated approach. Nowadays, many children are learning to read from e-books rather than paper books. In 2016, it was recorded that e-reading was used in roughly ⅔ of primary and secondary schools in America.

However, the question remains: are e-books a better learning resource than paper books?

Recent research conducted at the University of Michigan found that it is better to use paper books when teaching children how to read. This is because parents who read e-books with their children tend to discuss less the books they are reading. E-books provide many distractions, with buttons and volume control that can sidetrack parents and readers alike. As a result, parents reading e-books with their children read fewer words out loud, and discuss storylines less.

Dr Tiffany Munzer, the lead author of this study, argues that discussing the storyline is crucial for the child’s development. She says “parent-led conversations are especially important for toddlers because they learn and retain new information better from in-person interactions than from digital media”. Therefore, as supported by Dr Munzer’s study, paper books offer better quality reading, more interaction between mother and child, and help students learn faster, especially when they are young.

Additionally, neuroscientists stress that reading on paper or on ipads/tablets uses different parts of the brain. While paper books allow us to concentrate and fully immerse ourselves in what we are reading, e-books make our eyes jump all over the page and only skim the text. Thus, since our eyes are jumping about, we rarely finish the section we are reading, and simply move on to the next one. Scientists have assigned the term ‘non-linear’ to describe this type of reading. However, both ‘linear’ and ‘non-linear’ forms of reading are necessary for students’ learning and practice. Therefore, limiting reading skills to only ‘non-linear’ will hinder the students’ development.

Such research causes growing concern among experts. The American Academy of Paediatrics often reminds parents of the importance of reading on paper books. After every visit, paediatricians now suggest to parents that they read paper books with their children rather than electronic ones. As described by paediatrician Dr Pamela High, “reading together should be a daily fun family activity”.

You will be relieved to learn that Bright Young Things advocates paper-learning and keeps screen time to a minimum. Alongside BYT’s screen-free learning policy, all our centres have a fully stocked library with a variety of books for students of all ages. We always encourage students to borrow our paper books from the library to keep them passionate, motivated and to ensure that they keep expanding their vocabulary. Furthermore, our English tutors regularly provide reading lists for their students with the aim of improving the students’ reading levels and to encourage them to explore a variety of different genres. If you think that your child’s school is not promoting paper reading, or not giving enough reading homework, please get in touch with the centre closest to you. 

Harrow, [email protected], 020 8909 2829

Maidenhead, [email protected], 01628 200 114

St Albans, [email protected], 01727 260 239

High Wycombe, [email protected], 01494 911 655