Could e-readers boost reading retention and interest among middle school students? A surprising new study by Southern Methodist University researchers suggests the answer is: Yes -- and no.
The study, published in the International Journal of Applied Science and Technology, found middle school boys described as “reluctant readers” tended to rate reading more valuable as an activity after using an e-reader for two months. But, curiously, researchers found e-readers had the opposite effect on middle school girls who struggle with reading; they appeared to prefer actual books.
The findings come from a study of 199 Texas middle school students who struggle with reading and who participated in a reading improvement class that included Amazon's Kindle e-reader. Researchers provided e-books on the Kindle e-readers to students, who were given 15 to 25 minutes to read high-interest chapter books and stories. Books included 25 classics, including “The Wizard of Oz” and “Black Beauty,” as well as ghost stories and scary stories, which were the most popular.
Study author Dara Williams-Rossi said the researchers found that boys consistently had a higher self-concept of their reading skill than girls both before and after using the e-readers. After use of the e-readers, boys' attitudes about the value of reading improved, while girls' attitudes declined, said Williams-Rossi.
"The technology appeared to motivate the boys to read, while many girls preferred the actual books," said Williams-Rossi. "The data showing the girls' preference were statistically significant and particularly intriguing. This is part of a 3-year study and this data came midway through, so we are continuing our investigation and interviewing girls to understand their reaction to the e-readers. It may be that they prefer curling up with actual books and that they enjoy sharing their reading with their friends."
Among the findings:
• All students generally liked using e-readers;
• Many felt that using it helped their reading improve; and
• Sixth- and seventh-graders were more enthusiastic than eighth-graders about the e-readers.
"It's inevitable that e-reader technology will enter school classrooms," said the authors. "Our study presents reasons e-readers may be beneficial, in particular, to reluctant readers in middle grades."