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Why Reading Is Important for Children​—Part 2: Screen or Print?

Why Reading Is Important for Children​—Part 2: Screen or Print?

 Which does your child prefer to read—the printed page or a digital screen?

 Many youths would choose a screen. “For a generation raised to click on the next link or scroll to the next page within seconds, books just don’t hold their attention,” writes Dr. Jean M. Twenge. a

 Reading on an electronic device certainly has advantages. “The school I went to used digital books,” says 20-year-old John. “The search feature helped me to find the information I needed, quickly.”

 People who read from a digital device have a number of other helpful tools at their fingertips. For example, with a simple click or tap, readers may be able to find the definition of a word, play audio, watch a related video, or access supplementary information through a hyperlink. However, does that suggest that there is less value in reading printed material?

 When it comes to deeper study, some prefer paper copy. The reasons?

  •   Attention. A teenager named Nathan says, “When I’m reading on a screen, pop-ups and notifications often distract me from what I’m trying to focus on.”

     Karen, 20, has a similar challenge. “When I read on a phone or a tablet,” she says, “it’s easy for me to be sidetracked by an unrelated app or to be tempted to play a game.”

     Bible principle: “Make the best possible use of your time.”—Colossians 4:5, Phillips.

     To think about: Does your child have the self-discipline to avoid distractions while reading or studying on a digital device? If not, how might you help your child learn to focus?

     Tip: Help your child understand that digital distractions will only prolong homework sessions and intrude on time that could be spent on other activities.

  •   Comprehension. “Multiple experiments have shown that readers simply do not gain the same level of comprehension reading on a screen that they do on paper,” says the book Be the Parent, Please.

     One reason is that people who read on screens tend to skim material rather than ponder over it. “On the Web,” says author Nicholas Carr, “we want to gather as much information as quickly as our eyes and fingers can move.” b

     At times, of course, skimming has benefits. The problem, Carr notes, is that it “is becoming our dominant mode of reading.” As a result, your child could develop a habit of breezing through material without grasping its meaning.

     Bible principle: “With all you acquire, acquire understanding.”—Proverbs 4:7.

     To think about: How can you help your child learn to explore a topic more deeply, whether on paper or on a screen?

     Tip: Be balanced. It is not a matter of using either one medium or the other. Both have advantages. Indeed, some electronic features can aid comprehension. So, be reasonable when discussing the pros and cons of both forms of reading with your children. Recognize, too, that each child is different.

  •   Retention. Compared to print reading, notes Ferris Jabr in an article published in Scientific American, reading on an electronic device may “drain more of our mental resources . . . and make it a little harder to remember what we read.”

     Reading a printed book, for example, can help memory by creating a visual “map” of where on a page or two-page spread a certain point was found. The result may be a mental “bookmark” for later reference.

     In addition, researchers have found that those who read printed material tend to absorb the information more deeply. They recall information because they seem to learn it better.

     Bible principle: “Safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability.”—Proverbs 3:21.

     To think about: Is it difficult for your child to understand or remember what he or she has read or studied? If so, how can you help improve your child’s study habits? Would using a print publication help?

     Tip: Consider your child’s performance rather than preference. People tend to overrate their ability to read from a screen.

a From the book iGen.

b From the book The Shallows.