One week ago today children once again got to dress up in costumes in honour of World Book Day, collect a £1 book at their local bookstore, and hopefully take away newfound inspiration or motivation to read for pleasure. In its veritable celebration of books and reading, World Book Day tries to inspire enthusiasm for reading in children and adults.
Over this short-lived optimism around the written word looms a dark, pessimistic cloud. Studies have shown time and time again that reading frequency, teenage literacy, and the overall standing of literature is in a worrying decline. A noticeable trend is a sharp decline in the percentage of children who enjoy reading for pleasure. According to a survey, in 2010 60% of children loved or liked reading books for fun. In 2015 however, this number has shrunk to 51%. This development arguably inspires a pessimistic outlook for this generation, considering the effects reading (or not reading) for pleasure on academic success as well as personal development.
It seems natural that the more children read for pleasure, the better they perform in grammar, text comprehension, vocabulary, and general knowledge. Research on reading for pleasure not only confirms the points above, but also suggests that it can result in increased empathy, improve interpersonal communication skills and relationships, reduce symptoms of dementia and depression, and improve the overall wellbeing of a person. These results are of course not only applicable to children. Reading for enjoyment has positive effects throughout a person’s life.
There is certainly scientific and statistical truth to the decline of children reading for pleasure itself. One can see a tendency in the reporting of these studies, which is to blame technology for the less than favourable results. The blame is also most certainly not completely unfounded and correlated to children and teenagers (as well as their parents) spending a lot of time on their devices. People tend to choose the more intense and easier stimulus screens can provide over reading printed words off paper pages — or even E-reader pages for that matter. It might very well actually be the case that people read more words than before the “technological revolution”, however they read in snippets, comments, articles, and internet lingo, which cannot provide the benefits reading for enjoyment can, often lacking structure and coherence.
The technological revolution and progress is irrevocably going ahead so we should get comfortable with the idea of recognising the change technology will inevitably cause to how we read and learn. Embracing and employing the change in a way we can benefit from it is the way to go ahead. We need to find ways to motivate children to read by utilising their affinity to tech with educational technology, for example gaming apps that encourage fulfilment from reading, later transforming this motivation to advance in a game into a habit of reading for pleasure from which they can expect to reap the benefits gained from reading.
Nevertheless, introducing just any technology into education is neither sufficient nor expedient. A whole lot of effort needs to be put into developing educational technology that actually serves a purpose and not only helps students achieve learning goals, but also facilitates substantial long term learning. Adaptive and blended learning — made possible by edtech — allows students to personalise their learning process. The gamification of learning exercises has the potential to draw on the competitive streak of students and turn learning processes into an interactive activity that could even promote, for example, multiple solution problem solving in students. The continuous digitalisation of content optimistically promises a democratisation of education and increasing access to technology for people all around the world could hopefully reduce inequalities of access to education. A comparatively simple objective is to provide educators with technology that allows them to optimize their processes and focus on delivering high quality teaching to the benefit of their students. It is technological innovation in education, as evident with TutorCruncher, gearing towards the continued development of educational organizations that is part of the aspiration for technology support and advancing best practices in education.
Increased well-being, better performance in all aspects of literacy, and so much more that we can get from reading for pleasure — it is imperative to find ways to motivate children and teenagers to read to make sure they get a chance at benefiting from the perks of reading. The way to go might very well be to grab the alleged culprit by the neck and utilize technology to this very end.
Sources: Reading survey Reading habits of children and parents An app for reluctant readers Government research on reading for pleasure Silicon Valley teacher on edtech High-tech in schools Edtech trends in 2017 Image 1 Image 2