A survey by the UK’s National Literacy Trust has endorsed the benefits of eBooks for increasing literacy rates in children. The Impact of ebooks on the Reading Motivation and Reading Skills of Young People: a study of schools using RM Books found a number of significant elements to the eBook story. Children enjoyed using the technology, felt encouraged to read more, increased their reading of paper books as a result and, notably, boys seemed to benefit most.
Of the 468 eight- to sixteen-year-old pupils surveyed, 28% of the boys initially found reading difficult and only 34% thought it was ‘cool’. By the end of the four-month study however, 16% of boys found it difficult and 66% now thought it was cool. Boys are typically the most reluctant readers so anything that catches and holds their interest is to be applauded.
Alongside the increased enjoyment and confidence in reading reported by both girls and boys, the project showed that eBooks sparked an interest in paper books too. The stats speak for themselves: 49% said they enjoyed reading at the start of the project rising to 64% afterwards and 75% said they enjoyed reading using the technology.
This UK survey echoes the findings of a 2014 survey by Scholastic in the US. The Kids & Family Reading Report found the percentage of children using eBooks has doubled since 2010 and that half of the surveyed children said they would read more if they were able to use eBooks. Significantly this survey also found that boys were particularly encouraged by the technology, with one in four boys reporting they were reading more for fun after using an eBook.
The then Chief Academic Officer for Scholastic, Francie Alexander, commented at the time: “While many parents express concern over the amount of time their child spends with technology, nearly half do not have a preference of format for their child’s books. The message is clear – parents want to encourage more reading, no matter the medium.”
It seems that parents’ concerns about their children’s dependence on technology disappear when the technology promotes reading. So what is the appeal of eBooks for children? It could be a number of factors. The ability to customize the text size and background helps to make reading easier. The ability to choose how many words are on the page means that younger children or timid readers don’t feel overwhelmed. And in the US study, children, specifically boys, said they liked the fact that no one knew what book they were enjoying because there was no book jacket to make it obvious.
While it would seem that eBooks are able to circumnavigate peer pressure, they are also able to overcome other barriers too. In homes where there are few or no paper books (perhaps the parents don’t enjoy reading or don’t see its value), eBooks can provide access to a range of titles, allowing children to feel encouraged and motivated to use new technology, without the complication of parents having the same association with it as they do with traditional books.
Both reports clearly show that eBooks encourage and benefit children’s reading. For the same reasons, they could benefit adults too – from those with dyslexia to those who are simply not confident readers – the potential for eBooks is huge. The ereading revolution is here.