E-books can turn boys on to reading

11th May 2012 at 01:00

Secondary school boys who previously struggled with reading felt much more enthused after spending two months using an e-reader.

New research, from Southern Methodist University in Texas, US, revealed that boys saw the point of reading after sessions that involved the use of e-readers such as the Kindle.

Dara Williams-Rossi, of the university's department of teaching and learning, interviewed 199 middle school (key stage 3) pupils who had been struggling with reading.

All pupils attended a reading improvement class, which included between 15 and 25 minutes' reading on a Kindle. The books they read included classics such as The Wizard of Oz and ghost stories. The latter were particularly popular. Pupils tended to read between one and four e-books during the two-month study.

As a result of using the e-readers, the boys in the group were much more positive about reading, saying that they could see the value in it. By contrast, the girls' attitude to reading declined. "It may be that they prefer curling up with actual books, and that they enjoy sharing their reading with their friends," says Williams-Rossi.

Pupils said they particularly liked not having to carry several books around school. They also liked the fact that their reading level was not apparent from the cover of the Kindle. And they appreciated the fact that their book of choice was always available and could not be taken out of the classroom by another pupil.

In fact, word about the e-readers spread around the school, and pupils who were not in the reading improvement group began asking how they could join "the Kindle classes".

Teachers, however, were more ambivalent about the new technology. They agreed that pupils responded well to it. But they also said they were frustrated by pupils' easy access to the internet through the devices. This meant that they needed to monitor them closely as they read. Teachers also complained that they had to spend time ensuring that the e-readers were charged and locked up each night.

Nonetheless, many admitted that they planned to incorporate e-readers into their lessons in coming years.


Dr Dara Williams-Rossi: http:smu.edueducationteachereducationfacultyDaraWilliams-Rossi.asp.

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