UK study finds disadvantaged children more likely to read daily using touchscreen

11 Mar 2014

Image via wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Reading stories on touchscreen mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, could boost literacy, particularly among kids from disadvantaged areas, a survey of parents of young children in the UK suggests.

The UK’s National Literacy Trust and education firm Pearson surveyed over 1,000 parents of children aged three to five, finding that a combination of print and touchscreen-based titles can encourage reading in the pre-school years.

While 70.8pc of children were said to enjoy reading print storybooks alone, 77.4pc enjoyed a combination of both print and touchscreen reading.

It was also discovered that this technology offers a route into reading for disadvantaged children, who are twice as likely to read daily when a touchscreen was available at home.

Among those children with access to a touchscreen device, 16pc of children from lower socio-economic backgrounds read stories this way on a daily basis, compared to 7.2pc of children from more privileged homes.

The report also found that poorer children who use both books and touchscreens, as opposed to physical books alone, are less likely to perform below the expected reading level for their age.

Learning new technology

While 95.2pc of children read a book in a typical week, more than a quarter also use a touchscreen to read stories.

Most parents (73.7pc) believe it’s important for kids to learn to use technology from an early age to help them when it comes to their schoolgoing years.

“Technology is playing an increasingly crucial role in all our lives and the ways in which children are learning are changing fast. It is important that we keep abreast of these changes and their impact on children’s education,” said Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust.

Parents as role models

Parental influence is not to be discounted, either, with the study claiming that children are more likely to look at or read print-based stories the more their parents read either print or touchscreen content.

It also found that the more skilled parents were at reading, the better their child’s communication and language were by age five.

“When parents read with their children, whatever the medium, they increase their child’s enjoyment of reading, which brings life-long benefits. Both practitioners and parents have a vital role to play in supporting children to read from an early age whether they use books or a touchscreen,” added Douglas.

Kids with tablet image by wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.