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NLT Survey Suggests Tablets And Ebooks In Schools Increase Boys’ Reading Progress

  • NLT Survey Suggests Tablets And Ebooks In Schools Increase Boys’ Reading Progress

National Literacy Trust finds technology can engage boys in fiction, making them confident readers

The NLT’s latest research, published today, shows that ebooks can help boys to make significant progress, and get the most reluctant readers to enjoy reading more.

The Impact of ebooks on the Reading Motivation and Reading Skills of Young People: a study of schools using RM Books’ [PDF] found that during the project, which lasted for an average of 4.2 months, boys’ reading levels increased by an average of 8.4 months, compared to 7.2 months progress made by girls. The percentage of boys that felt reading was difficult almost halved from 28% to 15.9% as a result of this project. Twice as many boys also thought reading was ‘cool’ at the end of the project, increasing from 34.4% before to 66.5% afterwards

40 UK schools took part in the study, which saw schools use RM ebooks for their own literacy projects and 468 pupils surveyed before and after participating.

Turning the page

The study found that boys read for longer using technology, which supports the NLT’s annual literacy survey from 2014 which showed that 75.2% said they enjoyed reading using technology compared to just 56.7% who said they enjoyed reading on paper. The same survey noted that ebook use tripled between 2010 and 2014, from 5.6% to 15.3%, but interestingly, this latest project also seemed to boost the percentage of pupils who said they enjoyed reading on paper, rising from 10% beforehand to 40% afterwards.

Significantly more boys enjoyed reading after the programme than before (56.8% compared to 49.1%), and there was an 11% increase in the number of boys who enjoyed reading using technology over the course of the project (60.9% at the start, compared to 67.9% at the end). The rise in reading enjoyment using print was smaller by comparison, with 54.1% of boys stating that they enjoyed reading on paper post-project, compared with 50.1% beforehand.

By contrast, there were no significant differences in girls’ enjoyment of reading across all formats over the course of the project (70.6% pre-project; 68.5% post-project).

“The study clearly shows that the impact ebooks can have on reading enjoyment, particularly for boys, goes well beyond the novelty of a new reading format,” says NLT’s research manager, Irene Picton. “It is important to recognise the increased reading opportunities that technology offers pupils and how it can help children who struggle to read – for example, by giving them the option of increasing the font size of the text. This study indicates that technology has most potential to engage children, particularly boys, who do not enjoy reading, and to transform children’s attitudes towards reading.”

A quick read

In the 2014 annual survey, 88.6% of respondents reported reading using technology outside school, compared to just over 1 in 10 (11.4%) who said that they only read on paper. While reading ebooks tripled between 2010 and 2014 (from 5.6% to 15.3%), the majority of fiction is still read on paper – 57.1%, compared to 34.9% using technology.

Other key findings of the report show the impact that technology is having on reading habits and perceptions. More children looked forward to reading time in class and thought reading was ‘cool’ after the project. Fewer said that they preferred TV to reading, that they couldn’t find texts that interested them, that they found reading difficult or that they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading.

The benefits of ebooks cited by students included their ability to enlarge text and the lit screens of some models making reading easier. Eye strain and headaches, battery life, WiFi availability and the fact that not everyone owns a device capable of read ebooks made up most of the negatives Concentration was also cited as an issue, with children saying that when reading ebooks on a phone, laptop or tablet, notifications, messages and the temptation to look online or play games could be distracting.

This project also factored in students’ socio-economic background. As a group, students eligible for free school meals showed an increase in looking forward to reading in class (65.5% before compared to 75.8% after) and thinking reading was cool (52.9% to 63.3%), and were less inclined to prefer TV to reading (49.6% to 35.8%). They were also less likely to find reading difficult (26.7% to 12.6%).

Looking at reading attitudes by age, it seems that by secondary school children are less interested in reading. After the project, 71.8% of KS2 children looked forward to reading in class compared to 43.1% at KS3, The 66.8% who thought reading was was cool went down to 32.5% at KS3, while the number saying they preferred TV to reading went up from 37.4% to 57.1%.

For more information, visit www.literacytrust.org.uk or follow @Literacy_Trust

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