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Touchscreens could help poor children learn to read, report claims

Using touchscreens, such as smartphones and tablets, could help poor pre-school children to learn to read, a report published today has shown. 

The research, released by the National Literacy Trust, reveals that children from lower-income homes who looked at books on screens as well as in print were more likely to meet the expected reading, writing and speaking levels at age five than those from the same background who looked at books only.

However, the same report found that children from high- and middle-income groups who had access only to printed books did the same in reading but better in writing and speaking than their peers with screens. 

And those from all income groups with tablets were less likely to be able to listen attentively and pay attention than their peers who stuck to print only.

Overall, the study showed, children who only read stories in books were more likely to exceed expectations at age five than those who also read stories on screens.

The report, called Children’s Use of Technology in the Early Years, found that 99.7 per cent of children have access to books and 72.9 per cent had access to a touchscreen device at home.

The charity, together with education publishing giant Pearson, commissioned YouGov to survey more than 1,000 parents of children aged three to five.

While children from all socioeconomic groups were more likely to look at stories daily in books than on screens, tablets were relatively more attractive to children from poorer homes, the research said.

Among those children who had a touchscreen at home, 4.7 per cent of those from professional households used them to read stories every day compared to 6.7 per cent in homes where parents were unskilled or unemployed.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “When parents read with their children, whatever the medium, they increase their child’s enjoyment of reading which brings life-long benefits. 

"Both practitioners and parents have a vital role to play in supporting children to read from an early age whether they use books or a touch screen.”

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