Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Friday 9 October 2020

To screen or not to screen? A reading diet question

This week, Emma Nuttal draws on personal and professional experience and the family’s reading preferences to consider the differences between print and digital reading. What do you think? 

My children devour books. The school holiday treat is always a new book and a milkshake. These holidays, the book was done nearly as quickly as the milkshake. 

Now, I’m not complaining. I love that my kids love books. It was a parenting goal of mine, and I’m proud that we’ve knocked that goal out of the park… and over the road… and into the next park. Truly, I am. It’s just that I can’t keep up! 

Roald Dahl and David Walliams collections.

The bookshelves in our house are overflowing – and there’s a huge range of reading material on them. I think it’s healthy, a bit like a balanced nutritional diet; a balance of reading material is good for you. It must be. There are mountain bike magazines stacked up next to the collection of Asterix comics, which cause the hefty science books to constantly tumble over. On the shelf above, we’ve put the ‘collections’ –the Roald Dahl collection, the Lord of the Rings set and literally ALL of the Percy Jackson books. We’ve recently added the David Walliams collections and the Emily Conolan books too. It’s our own little family library. In the busy-mess of family life, the local public library isn’t always an option. And the habit has to be fed… 
Percy Jackson (Rick Riordan) and Emily Conolan collections.

One day, I was given an e-reader. I was hesitant at first. I had resisted for years. Actively avoided them. But, this was a gift and I’m not one to offend. So I used it. Only a little at first. But convenience crept in. A few long holidays and the deal was done - no more lugging big books around on long haul flights, I packed my whole holiday reading onto one device. But there’s a ‘but’. Well, actually a few. 

I can’t see the cover every time I read. I can’t really tell how big it is or how far through it I am. I can’t gauge how much time I get to spend in the story, with the characters I’ve grown to love. I can’t even easily read the blurb or accidentally flick a chapter or 2 ahead (I only do it occasionally, and only ever very briefly!). I can’t easily borrow and lend with friends and family. I can’t smell the pages. I can’t feel the literal weight of the story. There is research that suggests that we can’t comprehend as well when we read on a screen, “The strong appeal of digital-based assessment and learning environments has led many educational systems to adopt them. As findings from the current work reveal, however, digital environments may not always be best suited to fostering deep comprehension and learning” (Delgado et al. 2018). 

But there’s another ‘but’, what about that balanced reading diet? Screen reading is here to stay. Perhaps, as educators, we have the responsibility to teach students the comprehension skills required to effectively access digital AND paper texts. I’ve made the decision to balance my personal reading diet and as a parent, I’ve done the same. I provide a balance of digital, paper and audio reading material to my children. And they continue to devour books. Digital or otherwise. They don’t have the same hang-ups about screen reading as I do. Some other reading diet decisions will torment them as parents. 

Delgado, P; Vargas, C; Ackermon, R & Salmerón, L. (2018). Don't throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension. Educational Research Review, 25, 23-38.

Emma Nuttall
Teacher, Literacy Coach, avid reader and parent of readers 

Editor's note: If you are looking to explore digital reading, a good place to start is through your local library. If you live in Tasmania, visit Libraries Tasmania and discover ebooks and magazines, audio books and audio storytelling.

1 comment:

  1. Emma, you present a sound argument for using all forms of reading media for all reading levels and ages. I think 'balance' is the key even though children will gravitate to their preferred source regardless of our good intentions. As long as they read regularly does it really matter anyway?