On-screen versus print reading?

New research finds that children are reading more on electronic devices than they are reading in print.  Find out why books are still very important here.

On-screen vs off-screen? Time for a healthier reading balance

New research released by the National Literacy Trust finds that for the first time children are reading more on computers and other electronic devices than they are reading books, magazines, newspapers and comics.

What does this mean for children’s reading ability? While technology provides refreshing ways of engaging children in literature, the research found that children who only read on-screen are much less likely to be good readers than those who also read in print form. In addition, they are significantly less likely to enjoy reading.

This points to a very real danger in cutting out books altogether, and Words for Life is calling for parents to ensure their children have a healthy reading balance between both books and technological devices.

The National Literacy Trust surveyed 34,910 young people aged 8 to sixteen and found that:

  • 39% of children and young people read daily using electronic devices including tablets and eReaders, but only 28% read printed materials daily. The number of children reading eBooks has doubled in the last two years (from 6% to 12%).
  • Children say they prefer to read on screen. Over half (52%) said they would rather read on electronic devices but only a third (32%) would rather read in print.
  • Nearly all children have access to a computer at home and 4 out of 10 now own a tablet or a smartphone, while 3 in 10 do not have a desk of their own.
  • Girls are significantly more likely than boys to read in print (68% vs 54%)
  • Girls are also more likely to read on a range of on-screen devices including mobile phones (67% girls vs. 60% boys), eReaders (84% girls vs. 69% boys), and tablets (70% girls vs. 67% boys).

The research examines the influence of this technology on children’s reading abilities and their enjoyment of reading. It found those who read daily only on-screen are nearly twice less likely to be above average readers than those who read daily in print or in print and on-screen (15.5% vs 26%). Those who read only on-screen are also three times less likely to enjoy reading very much (12% vs 51%) and a third less likely to have a favourite book (59% vs 77%).

National Literacy Trust Director, Jonathan Douglas says:

“Our research confirms that technology is playing a central role in young people’s literacy development and reading choice. While we welcome the positive impact which technology has on bringing further reading opportunities to young people, it’s crucial that reading in print is not cast aside.

“We are concerned by our finding that children who only read on-screen are significantly less likely to enjoy reading and less likely to be strong readers. New technology clearly has a valuable part to play in literacy development, but we would encourage parents to ensure their children still read in print form if they are to become avid readers and reach their full potential in school.  At www.wordsforlife.org.uk, parents can find advice, activities and booklists to help them support their children’s literacy development.” 

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