Friday, January 03, 2014

All reading is not equal

When it comes to pleasure reading, what should your students or children be reading? What do you encourage them to read? Classic or modern? Fiction or non-fiction? Academic or non-academic? Newspapers? Magazines? Comic books? The backs of baseball cards?

What about physical vs. digital?

As Common Core State Standards (CCSS) begins to roll out across much of the country (for better or worse), the debate about what students read and should read has increased. CCSS calls for more exposure to informational texts and deemphasizes literature. Some support the change, others do not. What I do not see in the debate is how to create lifelong readers, which all but requires pleasure reading.

I'm a firm believer of self-selection. Readers naturally tend to gravitate towards readings that not only suit their interests, but also match their relative language ability. That is, while I may enjoy a comic book or a youth fiction now and again, or while I may occasionally challenge myself with a text like James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses, I generally and naturally tend to read texts that fit my level of skill and comfort. I'm sure other readers do the same. Whatever genre your students or children like to read is probably just fine, just so long as they're reading and learning to love their reading experiences.

The issue becomes a bit more muddled when we talk about medium. Is reading from online, on e-readers, or on tablets equal to reading from physical formats? There are mixed answers to this question, with some studies showing equal or better results from electronic and hyperlinked (especially those with leads) text but the majority showing reduced recall (learning) from non-paper sources.

So what is the answer? For now I think the most prudent thing would be to encourage paper reading as much as possible without totally discounting electronic formats. Despite the the fact that hypertext and electronic formats intuitively seem ideal for learning, the research just isn't there yet. Below are listed some mixed resources that fall on either side of the debate.

What genres do you encourage for your students or children? Based on the research you've read, where do you fall along the digital-paper continuum?

Some articles for further reading
Antonenko, P., Dale S. Niederhauser, D.S. and Thompson, A. (2007) Optimization of cognitive load in conceptually rich hypertext: effect of leads. Cognitive science journal  [Accessed 29 December 2013]. 

Cagnoz, B. and Altun, A. (2012) The effects of hypertext structure, presentation, and instruction 

DeStefano, D. and LeFevre, J. (2007) Cognitive load in hypertext reading: A review, Computers in human behavior, 23, p.1616-41. [Accessed 29 December 2013].

Genç, H. and Gülözer, K. (2013) The effect of cognitive load associated with instructional formats and types of presentation on second language reading comprehension performance. Turkish online journal of educational technology, 12(4), p.171-82. [Accessed 2 January 2014].

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