To Learn… Read Books, Not Screens!

All reading is not created equal. Want your kids to learn? Have them turn off their devices and pick up a book!

Technological advancements are changing the way we read. Reading physical media, like newspapers, books, and magazines, are on the decline.  More and more readers are choosing to read on laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This trend is becoming more and more pronounced in kids.

A British study found that more than half of students ages 8-16 preferred to read on an electronic device.

Researchers are learning that with the convenience of reading e-books comes the expense of reading comprehension. Some studies have found that children learn and retain more information when reading physical books. "Spacio-temporal markers," which are provided by paper texts, are a key difference when it comes to memory. Physical books engage more of the brain, which promotes learning. When kids touch and turn book pages as they read, they help remember where to find different pieces of information. On the other hand, scrolling through books or documents on the computer screen is linear and lacks a spatial component.

While reading a physical book, readers are able to see where they are, giving a sense of progress and an idea of when scenes occur. Another difference between reading physical and electronic books is focus-related discrepancies–kids focus and concentrate more while reading printed material than on electronic devices. Children are more easily distracted when reading digital material than physical.

According to a study by Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, 85% of American students said they were likely to multitask while reading on a screen, compared with 26% of those reading printed material.

Kids tend to become distracted reading texts online or on their phones, and this affects the way they approach reading in general. The discrepancy in focus directly leads to reduced comprehension and data retention. The data shows that kids reading physical books stay more focused. Increased contact with screens for young children is already affecting reading ability: print-readers are twice as likely to be above-average readers. There is a trend towards screen reading where those who read screens enjoy reading less than those who read printed material.

To avoid focus and concentration discrepancies and to help kids enjoy reading, provide kids with books. Providing your kids with books and encouraging them to read physical texts can help them grow accustomed to a more engaging learning method.

Five Ways to Excite Kids About Books

  1. Visit your local library.
  2. Read books together.
  3. Try graphic novels and/or comic books for more visually-oriented kids.
  4. Mystery and puzzle books can help keep kids engaged.
  5. Capture stories your kids tell so they can start creating their own books.

Science, Naturally! <>  is committed to increasing science and math literacy by exploring and demystifying these topics in entertaining and enlightening ways. We engage readers using both fiction and nonfiction strategies to make potentially intimidating subjects intriguing and accessible to scientists and mathematicians of all ages. You might discover our books in a school, a neighborhood book box, or a literacy program; but no matter where you find them, we hope they inspire you to read, tackle hard problems, and stay curious.

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