What happens to children’s brains when reading online? Do children need to read more paper books? KQED journalist Holly Corby collected the opinions of experts.
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Taking the evening bath, eight-year-old son of Julie Atkinson grabs the iPad and some time reading in bed with the app, “Epic!”. Before Atkinson and her husband read to him at night, and now their son travels independently, including 25 thousand books. He reads biographies, historical books and fiction books adapted to his age. Atkinson satisfied with the quality of the range of books and a recommendations feature.
But she says she noticed a difference between how her son reads paper books and books in digital form. In “Epic!” rather, he looks through the book! “He just flips through the book and looks, if they like the content. If it is a paper book, he would sit and read until you get tired. But “Epic!”… He knows that there are so many books, so hurry”.
According to research by Siming Lu from the University of California in San Jose is a typical “on-screen reading style”, when most of the time is spent on browsing and scrolling, but not on in-depth reading.
The more we begin to read on the Internet, the more carefully the experts are studying how reading can affect our brain. Expert Maryanne wolf, author of “Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain”, have expressed concerns that digital reading affects the brain’s ability to delve deeply into the reading process. Teachers try to control the tendency of students to display books, and nine out of ten parents say that they consider it important that their children read paper books.
But because reading from digital media came into use not so long ago, many adults don’t know what actually happens to the brain of their children when reading on the Internet. Do children need to read more paper books and why? Do other digital activity such as video games and social networking applications, on the ability of children to achieve a deeper understanding when learning more complex content, such as books? And how modern children learn to switch between paper and screen?
Digital reading is both useful and harmful
The digital revolution has created a kind of paradox read: spending a lot of time with their devices, children today are reading a lot more than ever, but the relationship between reading and digital technology is complicated.
Scientist cognitivist Daniel Willingham says that digital devices do not change the way of reading, which is used by children — they connect the letters to make words and combine words to construct sentences. And speaking about the words themselves, the children read more than ten years ago (mostly thanks to text messages). But he believes that the reading skills in children are changing. And you can guess that technology is changing these skills.
In the Chapter “Reading after the digital revolution” Willingham, a father of four children, is a balanced position relative to the screen reader.
“Digital reading is both useful and harmful,” he says. In other words: it’s complicated. While online, children can read, write messages, sit in social networks and play. And all this online reading increases “knowledge” words, even if vocabulary in text messages small. But does this mean that children begin to read more?
“Probably not, he says. In the end, they don’t read the instagram article from the “new York times”. They are just doing selfie and leave comments.”
Many parents and teachers worry that spending a lot of time with video games and social networks, the children scatter the attention – the average 8-12 year old spends about six hours a day in front of the screen, and adolescents – more than nine.
But Willingham thinks that worry is not necessary. If children spend too much time playing Super Smash Bros, it does not mean that they will not be able to concentrate on reading. Rather, he is concerned that this game teaches the child’s brain to jump from object to object, as in the fast-paced video games.
“It’s not that children can’t concentrate on anything, and that they are not particularly interested in having to focus on anything he says. They don’t like to be bored. The common feature of all digital marketing activities that are there all the time something interesting happens. And if I get bored, just switch to another app”.
When we read, on the contrary, it takes some effort to get involved and start to have fun. Perhaps in the beginning it will be even boring. But it is slowly unfolding pleasure brings a lot of joy in the end.
It’s a different kind of fun, like watermelon and chocolate
Willingham says that adults are wrong when restrict children viewing cartoons and games, instead we need to help children learn to distinguish simple pleasures, like using electronic applications, and more complex, as when it reaches the end of the book about Harry Potter. He recommends that parents tell their children that they should experience both pleasure.
“It’s still a lot to offer watermelon or chocolate for dessert. I love watermelon, and my kids love, but chocolate is more tempting, he says. I don’t mind that my children enjoyed the chocolate, but I want to eat a watermelon because it is a bit more useful, and in General – it’s a different kind of fun.”
“Parents and teachers should be able to convey to children and students that have a quick fun with quick impact, and there are things that are created slowly and require effort. But it would be great to experience this and that”.
To take the time to experience the slower pace and experience the joy of reading is especially important for younger children, so Willingham is in favour of limiting screen time for children, so they learned to enjoy reading. Children who have never experienced the satisfaction of reaching the end of the book, are unlikely to want to re-experience it when they grow up.
And older children it is important to learn how to manage time. A love of reading should increase as the muscles.
How online reading is changing our attention
Julie Coiro, a researcher from the Rhode Island University, believes that a much larger and more pressing problem in how online reading overstrains the attention of children. Online reading complicates the process of understanding “a million times,” she said.
As children read more and more online, especially in school, Cairo examines how this affects their brain. According to her study conducted on middle and senior grades, reading online requires more attention than reading paper books. Every action that the student does online, offers a variety of options for further action, need astounding self-control, to locate and absorb relevant information.
Each time you study the online content, students are faced with an almost limitless number of tabs, including images, videos and hyperlinks which in turn lead to an even greater amount of information. When the children go to the website, they should constantly ask ourselves: is the information I’m looking for? What happens if I click on one of the links – I’ll be closer or farther from what I need? The brain has to work to make the right choice.
“It used to be: pre-reading, actual reading and assessment at the end of the Chapter or at the end of the book, says Coiro. Now this process is repeated approximately every 4 seconds: I choose the link; I’ll decide if I want to be here or not; I think where I should go next.”
In one study, Coiro writes that the good readers of paper books are not necessarily good readers when reading online.
The ability to generate search queries, evaluate information, and integrate ideas from multiple sources, and the media requires specific skills that are missing when reading paper books.
“We think that we protect children if they will be read mainly paper books, says Coiro. And what if they are good readers in the world of printed books, they will naturally good readers and in the complex world of online books. But this is not so.”
We need to balance both approaches to reading. Many digital applications such as “Epic!”, try as much as possible to bring the reading experience to a real book. Suren Markosian, co-founder and CEO of Epic, has created this app and for their children. In this application, advertising, video, and hyperlinks knowingly taken outside of the book. “By choosing a book you just read, and nothing else distracting you,” he says.
Some teachers are taking a more assertive position to create space for reading. Jared Amato, a middle school teacher in Nashville, has created a series of 24-hour “cleansing” of the device for the new students, which allows you to get rid of the so-called “smartphone dependence.”
“Students need to form the habit of reading, so every day I give them free reading time in my class – he says. – As soon as they discover a book that captured them, they are much more “disconnected” from technology and continue to read at home.”
Translation Of Maria Stroganova