Digital Reading for Children

In a New York Times article published this week, Julie Bosman described the results of a Scholastic study that was used to “explore the attitudes and behaviors of parents and children toward reading books for fun in a digital age.” Although the results were somewhat surprising for parents and educators, after looking at the data noted in the article as well as the group surveyed (2,000 6 to 17 year olds) it’s not so surprising that the children were enthusiastic about reading digital materials. These children have all been raised using computers for homework, early education learning games, regular video games, iPods, etc. It’s only natural that they liked reading from the new digital platforms. The surprising fact is that 75% of them also like reading from regular books.

“Parents and educators have long worried that digital diversions like video games and cell phones cut into time that children spend reading. However, they see the potential for using technology to their advantage, introducing books to digitally savvy children through e-readers, computers and mobile devices. About 25 percent of the children surveyed said they had already read a book on a digital device, including computers and e-readers. Fifty-seven percent between ages 9 and 17 said they were interested in doing so.

Only 6 percent of parents surveyed owned an e-reader, but 16 percent said they planned to buy one in the next year. Eighty-three percent of those parents said they would allow or encourage their children to use the e-readers.

Francie Alexander, the chief academic officer at Scholastic, called the report “a call to action.”

“I didn’t realize how quickly kids had embraced this technology,” Ms. Alexander said, referring to computers and e-readers or other portable devices that can download books. “Clearly they see them as tools for reading — not just gaming, not just texting. They see them as an opportunity to read.”

Another aspect of the study also tested children’s trust in materials on the internet. “39 percent of children ages 9 to 17 said the information they found online was “always correct”. The parents were also interviewed and reported that they were concerned about the use of digital media and perhaps their children were responding too much to fast-moving, high color images.

The take-away from this survey is that there’s little doubt that we are well into the digital age, and schools will have to get on board with the new digital technology realities and make sure they are teaching in the ways that children are becoming used to learning. Schools need to streamline processes to ensure that school boards can move quickly to utilize and incorporate the new technologies. This is also a wake-up call for business as they will need to ensure that, as the current generation ages and retires, changes are made to increase competences in technology to attract and retain the incoming generations.

Image credit: Eric Rice

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