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Technology savvy children are using the same device for socialising, texting and staying in touch with friends to catch up with recreational reading
MANY children want to read books on digital devices and would read for fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books.
But even if they had that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their traditional print books.
These are a few of the findings of a study being released recently by Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter books and the Hunger Games trilogy.
The report set out to explore the attitudes and behaviours of parents and children towards reading books for leisure in the digital age.
Scholastic surveyed more than 2,000 children ages six to 17, and their parents.
Parents and educators have long worried that digital diversions such as video games and mobile phones cut the time that children spend reading.
However, they see the potential for using technology to their advantage, introducing books to digitally savvy children through e-readers, computers and mobile devices.
About 25 per cent of the children surveyed said they had already read a book on a digital device, including computers and e-readers.
Fifty-seven per cent between ages nine and 17 said they were interested in doing so.
Only six per cent of parents surveyed owned an e-reader but 16 per cent said they planned to buy one in the next year.
Eighty-three per cent of those parents said they would allow or encourage their children to use the e-readers.
Scholastic chief academic officer Francie Alexander regarded the report as “a call for action”.
“I didn’t realise how quickly kids had embraced this technology,” Alexander said, referring to computers and e-readers or other portable devices that can download books.
“Clearly, they see them as tools for reading — not just gaming or texting. They see them as an opportunity to read,” she added.
Milton Chen, a senior fellow at the George Lucas Educational Foundation, said the report made out a case for children reading on new digital platforms.
“The very same device that is used for socialising, texting and staying in touch with friends can also be used for another purpose,” Chen said. “That’s the hope.”
But many parents surveyed also expressed deep concerns about the distractions of video games, mobile phones and television in their children’s lives.
They also wondered if the modern multitasking adolescent had the patience to become engrossed in a long novel.
“My daughter can’t stop texting long enough to concentrate on a book,” said one parent surveyed, the mother of a 15-year-old in Texas.
Another survey participant, the mother of a seven-year-old Michigan boy, said, “I am afraid my son’s attention span will only include fast-moving ideas and book reading will become boring to him.”
More than half the parents surveyed said they are concerned that as their children spend more time using digital devices, they would be less interested in recreational reading.
The study did not measure whether the digital devices actually detract from time spent reading. However, it examined the effect of parents and teachers on children’s reading habits.
Children ages nine to 11 were more likely to be frequent readers if their parents provided interesting books to read at home and set limits on time spent using technology such as video games, the report said.
It also suggested that many children displayed an alarmingly high level of trust in information available on the Internet: 39 per cent of children ages nine to 17 said the information they found online was “always correct”. — NYT
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