Sunday, November 4, 2012

Are eReaders The Key To A More Literate Future?

Reading is a vital part of education, but in recent years with the influx of computer technology, video games and television available, there have been concerns that not enough of us are reading for pleasure.

There is evidence suggesting that children who read for pleasure every day achieve better results in reading skills tests than those who don’t. Experts claim that due to the lack of reading for pleasure in daily life, children are failing to achieve the results expected of them by certain key milestones in their early education.

An ability to read is vital for success during school years and crucial in the world of work. According to, two thirds of students who can’t read proficiently by the time they have reached the end of the fourth grade end up either in prison or claiming welfare. There is a 78 percent chance that if a child reaches this stage without being able to read they will not be able to catch up with their peers.

In the United States of America, a quarter of children grow up without knowing how to read. This is costly for the country, as 90 percent of people who receive welfare from the state dropped out of high school and those who can’t read are far more likely to have poor health. In fact, low literacy rates cost $73 million in direct health care costs every year.

Developments in reading technology

It isn’t all bad news for books though, as the advent of e-reader technology is said to be an encouragement for children to read, according to a recent survey. The Reading Agency questioned 500 parents, around half of whom said they thought e-reader technology was an encouragement for their offspring to pick up a book and start reading.

However, the popularity of e-readers seems to come at the detriment of investing in traditional books, as 61 percent of the parents questioned said they had never enrolled their child at the local library or borrowed books for them. According to the Reading Agency, children who use libraries double their chances of being above average readers.

The benefits of e-readers

When it comes to literature, e-reader technology boasts a wealth of benefits. Using the device, you can access libraries of books without having to leave your own home, and download the book of your choice within seconds. There are also storage benefits – you don’t require a library of bookshelves in your own home if you like to read. Additionally, this is a much more environmentally friendly way to access literature than printing words on paper.

With an e-reader you can access both children’s books and adult literature – either by sharing your device with your children, or investing in a child-friendly version so your kids don’t accidentally come across inappropriate titles.

Children’s e-readers include the LeapPad Explorer and Vtech Animated E-Book System – devices designed for young children, with their colourful graphics and robust, enduring design. For older children, there is the Nook – again with a coloured screen, as well as good quality graphics. This has the benefit of looking more like an adult e-reader so it feels more grown up.

E-readers in the developing world

The benefits of e-reader technology can be witnessed far and wide, with schools across the world investing in the technology to encourage children to read. In Kilgoris, South West Kenya, local schools are overcoming the shortage of textbooks by using e-reader technology which has been donated and is charged up using small generators and solar power packs.

One school has 150 of the e-readers, donated by the Kilgoris Project to share between 200 pupils, and the standard of reading at this educational establishment far outweighs that of other schools who are struggling for resources.

The school has found the technology inherently valuable, as the e-readers are robust, so they don’t get worn out quickly like traditional paper textbooks. They are also easy to update (being taken regularly to Nairobi where the internet is more accessible), so students can benefit from the latest textbooks, rather than using outdated versions.

Reading is a vital part of education right around the globe, which has suffered at the hands of new technology. However, e-readers have the potential to bring reading into the 21st Century, boosting literacy rates across the world – from the USA to Kenya – and providing a better level of education and improvements to life overall.

This article is written by Evelyn Robinson, an enthusiastic reader of our blog.