According to researchers, reading from physical print material leads to better understanding compared to reading from digital sources.
A recent study suggests that reading printed texts leads to better comprehension compared to reading digital materials.
A team of researchers from the University of Valencia examined numerous studies on reading comprehension that were released between 2000 and 2022. These studies involved a total of approximately 470,000 participants. The results of their analysis indicate that traditional print reading is more effective at improving comprehension skills compared to digital reading, with a potential increase of six to eight times.
According to Ladislao Salmerón, a professor at the University of Valencia and co-author of the study, there is a minimal correlation between how often someone reads for leisure on digital devices and their ability to comprehend texts. This could be due to the fact that digital texts often have lower linguistic quality compared to traditional printed texts. Salmerón explains that text on social media, for instance, is often casual and lacks advanced sentence structure and logical reasoning.
Salmerón noted that when reading digital texts, individuals often have a more superficial approach and tend to scan the material instead of fully engaging with it. This can result in a lack of immersion in the story or a failure to fully comprehend the intricate connections in an informative text.
The research, which was published in the Review of Educational Research, also discovered that for elementary school students, digital reading has a detrimental effect on comprehension. However, for high school and college students, the relationship between digital reading and comprehension becomes positive.
Salmerón proposes that this could be attributed to the fact that young children have a harder time managing distractions, such as receiving messages, while reading on electronic devices. He notes that our capacity to control our thoughts and actions develops during adolescence, so young children may not have the necessary skills to regulate their behavior during digital recreational reading.
The writers also mentioned that young children who frequently engage in digital reading may acquire a smaller academic vocabulary during a crucial time when they are transitioning from learning how to read to reading to gain knowledge.
According to Lidia Altamura, a PhD student and co-author of the paper, the researchers are not opposed to digital reading. However, their findings suggest that print reading has more benefits compared to digital reading. As a result, schools and education leaders should prioritize print reading over digital reading when recommending reading activities, particularly for younger readers.
Salmerón noted that an unexpected discovery was the limited correlation between reading for pleasure on digital platforms and understanding, regardless of the specific content being read. This was consistent for both social media and educational websites, including Wikipedia. It was anticipated that the latter would have a stronger connection to text comprehension, but the data did not support this assumption.