As a reading specialist and college professor who teaches how to learn strategies for faster learning, here’s one of the most interesting, research-backed strategies for how to learn better using books not Ereaders.
For years now I’ve been teaching and writing that digital devices will limit some of the most essential visual and memory skills required for reading. And recently, there is new research to back that up, plus it includes the health benefits too!
You probably want to jump to the new research but stay with me here for just a minute.
Clearly the research recognizes that we all use our digital devices every day.
But it wants to let you know there is a cost when you never engage with a real book. (Maybe that’s why I still like to still read the Sunday paper while sitting in Starbucks and the younger (20’s-30’s) crowd in there has often remarked that it’s cool to hold the paper in your hands– they are onto something).
Think about it – when you’re not interacting in any way with a real book (I say this while I’m keyboarding on a computer :) – i.e. turning pages, scanning differently than you do on a digital device and getting stressed out with keyboard eyestrain, both your memory and your health suffer. Yes – you read that right – you are actually more relaxed reading a real book.
It only makes sense. We humans are not designed for all this digital overload and you actually get emotionally attached to a real book! You feel it, smell it, the battery does not die on you, and you get the satisfaction of getting to that last page and actually closing the cover to the book when you’re done. Because of this close attachment – guess what – you remember more of what you read.
None of these goodies when you use and Ereader.
The Research Supports How to Learn Better Using Books not Ereaders.
The research before 1992 shows that you read slower and not as accurately when reading on a screen. Today’s studies seem a bit mixed on the subject but with emerging research, it’s getting clearer what the real problem is.
Eye movements change when you read on a screen – they tend to veer to the left (i.e. you’re not developing your peripheral vision as much, nor your visual tracking skills which means you may start to skip lines and miss information). In addition, when reading a book you have the full left and right pages available to you, along with the 8 corners and this orients you differently in your brain that it does when using an Ereader.
Plus – when you are detached from the reading as you are on an Ereader you can’t make a mental map of what you are reading; thus your attention wanders and it’s much harder to recall what you just read (and yes, there is science to back this up).
Basically, we are eliminating a sensory component we humans benefit from – holding the book and actually turning, dog-earing, underlining, making hand-written notes in the margins and more.
Neuroscience has long shown that using your hands to make any kind of notes on what you’re reading triggers your memory and comprehension better as you study and during the recall phase.
“There is physicality in reading,” says developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University, “maybe even more than we want to think about as we lurch into digital reading…”
As she notes in her book Proust and Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain -we are not actually born with brains wired for reading. We form those circuits by putting spoken language, motor skills and vision together. Letters are perceived as physical objects in our brain so we can navigate the terrain of a real book better than we can reading on a digital screen.
She continues to discuss that digital pages disappear, but when you read an actual book, you know where you came from, where you are and where you are going. Actual books leave these traces for you and your brain responds by enhancing your memory. Ereaders cannot do this.
In a study published in the International Journal of Educational Research, Volume 58, issue (2013), p. 61-68, Anne Mangen and her colleagues showed that students of the same reading ability levels had better recall when reading actual books than did students read the same text on Ereaders.
Enough said in this article. Keep in mind I’ve written books for Kindle and understand that we have to keep with technology (or do we?).
Mic Science has more and here you can read the the most recent research showing how to learn better using books not Ereaders…
Pat Wyman is the best-selling author of Amazing Grades:101 Best Ways to Improve Your Grades Faster, Spelling Made Easy: Learn Your Words in Half the Time; Math Facts Made Easy:Learn All Your Facts in Half the Time and co-author of Jackson’s First Day of School. She is a reading specialist, college professor and known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.
Wyman is the recipient of the James Patterson Page Turner Award for her work to enhance literacy and she has been interviewed by Nick Jr. Family Magazine, Woman’s World, The Washington Post and appeared on television and radio nationwide.