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Literacy news

Reading on computer screens motivates boys to read

1 Mar 2013

Research led by Meri-Tuulia Kaarakainen at the University of Turku in Finland was featured in this week’s TES. It revealed that boys’ can catch up with, and even overtake, girls if they read from computer screens rather than books. The study tested 208 girls and 235 boys aged 15-16, using both ‘traditional’ paper-based materials and digital materials on a program called ReadIT. ReadIT provided comprehension exercises using ‘hypertexts’, in which links must be followed in order to read the full test. The study results showed that girls did better on the traditional comprehension tests, but boys and girls did equally well on ReadIT tests. They also performed equally well when reading e-books.

The research found that girls read printed books better than boys, but boys’ comprehension skills were the same as girls’ when it came to digesting hypertexts.

Kaarakainen does state that she can only hypothesise as to why computer reading allows boys to catch up with girls because the samples were not specifically controlled for intelligence or social background.

She says:

Boys are motivated when it comes to reading with computers but are not so motivated with traditional reading. We found that boys who were very active internet users and who studied computer programming.

The study suggests that there is more scope for using information and communication technology in teaching boys’ literacy, but also that it may be necessary to improve girls’ digital skills so that they do not fall behind on the technological demands of today’s society.

To read more about boys’ reading visit our Boys’ Reading Commission report.

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