Curriculum

More Research on Digital Reading Needed, Group Contends

By Benjamin Herold — May 12, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A prominent child-advocacy group is calling for stepped-up research into the impact of digital technology on children’s reading.

“‘Reading’ used to mean sitting down with a book and turning pages as a story unfolded. Today it may mean sitting down with a device that offers multimedia experiences and blurs the line between books and toys,” according to a release accompanying a new report, titled “Children, Teens, and Reading,” from San Francisco-based nonprofit Common Sense Media. “All of this has a led to a major disruption in how, what, when, and where children and teens read, and there is much we don’t yet know.”

Last week, Education Week took an in-depth look at an emerging body of research suggesting that screen-based digital reading may be harming students’ comprehension and learning.

Common Sense Media provides independent reviews and rating of children’s media. In a comprehensive review of existing research and data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the Kaiser Family Foundation, children’s book publisher Scholastic, and others, the group found an abundance of evidence pointing to worrisome trends in children’s reading habits and abilities over the past two decades.

But there is a paucity of research into the impact that increasingly prevalent digital reading technologies such as e-readers and tablet computers may be having.

As a result, the group suggests the creation of an inventory of digital reading platforms and products, as well as further research into six key areas:


  1. How do children and families use e-books? The emphasis should be on better understanding how e-books are used in the real world, as opposed to experimental settings, Common Sense Media argues. That could mean better analysis of what platforms and embedded functionalities are actually being used.
  2. How does e-reading affect the amount that children and youth read? Data from the federal government and others indicates that reading rates among adolescents have dropped “precipitously,” the group says; according to the National Center for Education Statistics, for example, just 53 percent of 13 year-olds and 40 percent of 17 year-olds are now weekly readers, down from 70 percent and 64 percent in 1984. What role is technology playing in that trend?
  3. Does e-reading affect how children read? Research indicates that people tend to read on screens in short bursts, rather than with sustained focus. Many now also worry that the new generation of e-readers are replete with unhelpful distractions.
  4. Do e-readers improve literacy in early childhood? Despite the promises of e-readers to help young children learn to read through audio prompts and other tools, many parents continue to prefer print books when “co-reading” with their kids, according Common Sense Media. There is also some evidence that children retain and understand less when co-reading with a parent on e-readers versus in print.
  5. Does reading on a screen effect comprehension and retention? See last week’s story for more on this.
  6. Does the platform affect the amount of parent-child interaction when reading together?

The market for digital reading products has exploded, with a dizzying array of new platforms, functionalities, and titles now available. Research needs to keep pace, Common Sense Media argues.

“The nature of technological development and academic research is that we often don’t know the answers to our most important questions until the use of a new technology is underway,” the new report reads. “This is likely to be the case with reading as well.”

Follow @BenjaminBHerold and @EdWeekEdTech for the latest news on ed-tech policies, practices, and trends.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum What's the Best Way to Address Unfinished Learning? It's Not Remediation, Study Says
A new study suggests acceleration may be a promising strategy for addressing unfinished learning in math after a pandemic year.
5 min read
Female high school student running on the stairs leads to an opportunity to success
CreativaImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Curriculum School Halts Use of Fictional Book in Which Officer Kills a Black Child
Fifth graders in at least one Broward County school were assigned to read a book that critics say casts police officers as racist liars.
Rafael Olmeda, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
5 min read
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board, Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Alhadeff told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she does not feel like the book "Ghost Boys" is appropriate for 5th graders.
Lynne Sladky/AP
Curriculum Opinion Introducing Primary Sources to Students
Five educators share strategies for introducing primary sources to students, including English-language learners.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Opinion Eight Ways to Teach With Primary Sources
Four educators share ways they use primary sources with students, including a strategy called "Zoom."
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty