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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Words on paper deliver comprehension

printed paper books digital

The physical and tactile qualities of a paper book are part of comprehending the words. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Do you do most of your reading on a smartphone, tablet, computer or e-reader? Are you aware that the way you comprehend words and sentences on a screen may be different than if you were reading an actual book, newspaper or magazine?

paper books digitalIn terms of comprehension and attention, reading on a screen is not the same experience as reading on paper, according to an article published in Scientific American in April.

It’s because of the way we perceive letters and words and the ideas, events and actual objects they represent. According to the article, the printed words on the page, the pages in the book, the book’s size, shape and texture and the feel of the paper connect readers with the meaning of the words. We have a physical sense of the story, where information is on the page and where pages tell us how far we are into the book.

A digital representation of a text on a tablet, phone or computer lacks object quality. No matter how many tomes you stuff into your Kindle, it is the same size and weight.

Should your child avoid reading on a screen? Of course not. Screens are sharper and clearer than ever.

But children learn and play in three dimensions and a real book satisfies that need. Also, there are distractions on devices. With a book, there is nothing to click on to produce silly sounds and animations. You don’t lose track of the story line while trying to reach the next level of Candy Crush.

Books to teach the alphabet are physical objects to help young children learn letters and words. (Try Alphabet Anatomy or AlphaBlock) — just like magnetic letters on the fridge or a big fat crayon can help them learn to write.

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Daniel Friedman

Daniel Friedman is a staff writer and photographer for RAISING ARIZONA KIDS magazine.

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