| May 11, 2012
by Dr. Kristine Pytash & Dr. Richard E. Ferdig
The PEW Internet & American Life Project recently produced a report entitled, “The Rise of E-Reading.” In the report, they surveyed 2,986 Americans, ages 16 and older, to investigate people’s e-reading habits and preferences. The report noted 21% of Americans have read an e-book in the past year. They also found the average reader of e-books reads more than average none e-book consumers. Finally, 30% of e-reader users spend more time reading than they previously did.
Three key perspectives emerge from this report: research, literacy, and technology. From a research perspective, the audience surveyed were adults ages 16 and older. Much can be gleaned from this report, as will be highlighted here. However, future research could consider replicating this important work with younger students and/or specifically focusing on e-reader use in elementary, secondary, or collegiate classrooms.
Some of this work has already been started. For instance, Larson (2010) found second grade students’ reading comprehension was supported by using e-readers because they could adjust the font size, access online dictionaries, and activate text-to-speech features. Literacy researchers can continue to explore this area by asking what other features of e-readers might aid students’ reading acquisition and development?
Specifically focusing on literacy, there are two key findings in the report that warrant attention. First, the survey indicates the number of people purchasing and using e-readers is increasing. This might signal an increase in the number of children and adolescents with access to e-readers at home. Literacy educators have argued for recognition of students’ personal literacy practices. Does using e-readers in the classroom help bridge students’ out-of-school reading and in-school reading practices?
Second, according to the report, people using e-readers stated they were more avid readers than previously. In fact, the longer they owned an e-reader, the more reading they did over time. Also, those using e-readers read more than people who read traditional print books. This has interesting implications for literacy teachers and researchers as they begin to explore students’ motivation and engagement when reading using e-readers. Are students more motivated to read using an e-reader versus a traditional text? Does students’ motivation stem from using the e-reader or would e-readers be a way to provide students with opportunities to have increased choice and access to a wider range of reading experiences?
The technology itself is final important aspect to consider when viewing this report. Although studying e-readers is important given their ubiquity, defining an e-reader is more complex. Some hear the term and point to a Kindle or a Nook. However, one must also consider iBooks on the iPad or Kindle software on a desktop. Researchers must ask if there is something specific about e-readers vs. technologies that allow e-reading. As important is the notion of literacy in reading online materials, following the important work of Don Leu (for instance, see: Leu, Everett-Cacopardo, Zawilinski, McVerry, & O’Byrne, in press). If students learn to read through e-readers, whether at home or in school, how do these literacy practices translate to non e-reader texts? Finally, some e-readers allow writing, such as annotation, peer review, or notes to their teacher. The PEW report provides findings with implications for the use of e-readers in the K-12 classroom. Future research should continue to explore ways in which changes in e-readers promote a reading/writing connection.
Larson, L. (2010). Digital readers: The next chapter in e-book reading and response. The Reading Teacher, 64(1), 15-22.
Leu, D.J., Everett-Cacopardo, H., Zawilinski, L., McVerry, J.G., O’Byrne, W. I. (in press). The new literacies of online reading comprehension. C.A. Chapelle, (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Dr. Kristine Pytash is an Assistant Professor of Adolescent Literacy Education, Kent State University, email@example.com. Dr. Richard E. Ferdig is a professor of ITEC and the RCET Research Professor at the Research Center for Educational Technology, Kent State University, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is part of a series from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).