Reading on devices may help parents stop the “summer slide”

A recent study from a University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) scholar, shows that eReading on tablets may help increase both motivation and reading comprehension among children in middle school who are learning to read. This spells good news for parents of reluctant readers keen to keep their children engaged in books this summer.

The 2013 study by Tina de Lourdes Benevides, PhD, used an ethnographic approach to investigate the influence of tablet technology on student motivation for both proficient and struggling readers. The results revealed a significant increase in motivation for reading by proficient readers and an increase of two grade levels on average in reading comprehension for struggling readers.

Benevides, who stresses the importance of strong pedagogical guidance in the classroom, found that the built-in features of tablet technology allowed inquisitive students to actively solve problems and research unknown words and concepts themselves—an advantage of tablet reading which increased motivation and understanding among the study’s participants.

Subjects were able to adjust the font size (a significant success factor for struggling readers, as some reluctant kids feel more confident with bigger type), access the built-in dictionary, activate the text-to-speech function, and read along to books using the tablet’s built in audio. As a result, children who did not enjoy reading books before the study began, later expressed their enthusiasm about this new reading experience.

In earlier research conducted by Benevides (included in Kobo’s Spring 2013 Whitepaper on the children’s book market), she found that struggling readers in particular are also drawn to the privacy of tablets which allow them to read novels without the scrutiny of their peers, while the inability to tell how thick a book is makes starting a new read less daunting.

“Our own research data shows us that once kids find a book they like, they become engaged and passionate readers,” said Michael Tamblyn, President and Chief Content Officer, Kobo said. “Reading data we collect shows that the ‘finish rate’ for top-selling kids’ chapter books, an important milestone for literacy, is about 70%, meaning most kids read right through to the end. We also find that once they find a series they like they voraciously read as many books as are available. The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, for example, shows that reader engagement increases as young readers make their way through the series. With each subsequent book in the series completion rates consistently increase, so much so that there is a near 30% jump in completion rate from book 1 to book 5.”

As parents and educators continue to grapple with creative ways to keep children engaged during the vacation months—a time often associated with “learning loss”—tablets such as the Kobo Arc 7HD and Apple’s iPad Air, have the potential to become what Benevides calls a “motivating hook” for students who struggle with literacy. With their excellent portability, flexibility and wide array of kid-friendly reading features, they represent the next wave of essential educational tools.

With another month before classes resume, adolescents can keep their minds sharp by reading popular YA titles like The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and The Giver—titles that will soon be making their way to the big screen or have recently been released. As youth literacy experts suggest, summer learning doesn't mean young people should be hunched over textbooks at the library for three months. Summer is a great way to reinforce learning and to build skills in an environment that's really different than school.  With the support of parents and the added motivation provided by tablet-reading, kids can not only avoid the “summer slide” but thrive this season.

For the full study from Tina Benevides please visit the following link: file:///C:/Users/blandau/Downloads/Benevides_Tina_L_201311_PhD_thesis.pdf

More information on “summer learning loss”:

Kobo’s Spring 2013 Whitepaper – The Children’s Digital Book Market: