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Is Digital Reading Costing Our Kids Learning?

Just download it. Electronic devices can hold a lot of books, and they are cheaper and lighter than buying paper books and lugging them around in a backpack. But do kids get the same level of understanding from each of them? According to an international report, the answer is a clear, “No.”

The smell of books and using your fingers to turn the page, rather than a quick swipe, seems to be an advantage. It may seem a little yesterday, but touch and smell create a physical bond with the book and increases memory retention and learning.

A report by the OECD, or Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that reading a physical book helps children become strong readers. Even when kids are way past pop-ups and beautiful pictures, teenagers from similar backgrounds, who most often read physical books, scored 49% higher than kids who relied on electronic devices to read. According to the report, digital vs. paper turns out to be a whopping 2.5 years of learning.

What does that say about kids who have to take tests on a computer? In a lab-controlled environment, students who worked from a paper test vs. those who took the test digitally got more correct answers.

While it seems to make sense that children in disadvantaged households should have access to digital devices to read more, and often free books. (The library is not dead.) Children surrounded with physical books at home read more than their counterparts.

We live in a digital world. But just think of your favorite book. Did you keep a copy? Does it make you smile to see it on your shelf? It is good to feel paper between your fingers, especially when you know your brain will store more of the story’s theme and writing style.

By Connie Timpson/Storyteller/Writer/Educator


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