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Bad news: they may not be benefiting from what they read.
A report released by Scholastic early in 2013 carries an ostensibly encouraging report that children between 6 and 17 are turning in greater numbers to e-books. Forty-six percent of the children polled said they had read at least one e-book, twice the number of those surveyed in 2010. In particular, boys, who “traditionally lag behind girls in reading” in the words of Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times, were showing greater attachment to the medium.
But there are two other questions that may put these promising numbers into perspective. One is, do kids like a steady diet of e-books? At least one group surveyed says they don’t. “The number of girls who reported being frequent readers declined to 36 percent from 42 percent,” Kaufman informs us. The reason for this significant decline may have to do with the fact that more children are reading on iPads and other tablets, rather than on Kindles, Nooks and other dedicated e-readers. The temptation to peek at text messages or play a quick video game is far stronger when books are read on tablets. “‘Managing screen time is the challenge of parenting today,”‘ Francine Alexander, Scholastic’s chief academic officer was quoted in Kaufman’s article Digital Reading on the Rise for Children (With a Qualifier).
Which leads to the second and perhaps most significant question of all: how much are children getting out of digital reading? There is compelling evidence that information retention is down for kids who read on screen, as opposed to those who immerse themselves in printed books or books on dedicated e-readers. See for instance Will Our Children Read E-Books?