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Digital Media Promotes Reading and Learning

Inaugural lecture on Reading and Digital Media by professor Eliane Segers.

There is still not enough knowledge about if and how digital media contributes to the reading behaviour of children and young people. In March 2016 the Dutch literacy foundation ‘Stichting Lezen’, a knowledge centre for the promotion of reading and literature education, took the initiative to establish an endowed chair for Reading and Digital Media at the University of Twente to help research this subject. On 9 March 2017, Professor Eliane Segers will hold her inaugural lecture: ‘Reading and Digital Media; a perspective on education’. As professor occupying an endowed chair she examines whether children are more motivated to read through the use of new technological applications.

In the last sixty years Dutch people started to spend less time reading books. Between 2013 and 2015 reading time dropped from 5.2 to 4.8 hours per week. Children in particular spend less time reading and just a small percentage read digital books. At the same time, it is true that they have affinity with digital media and that this is often at their immediate disposal.

Digital media helps poor readers

Segers: “Digital media can reinforce the literate home environment. There is no justification for the idea that a child should not start playing with a tablet too soon. Actively playing with a good app is really something entirely different to passively watching TV. Furthermore, digital media can help poor readers to learn to read faster. Using a specially developed app, the weakest readers (25% of children) showed significant improvement during a reading task.”

Term digital natives slightly naive

Digital media supports poor readers. Nonetheless, Segers believes it would be naive to think that the children of today are digital natives who have no problems with digital media. “The processing of multimedia digital texts (hypermedia) requires skills that children do not just happen to have. Sound education is needed for that and some things must be included in the teaching methods. To achieve this, the scientific world must pay more attention to hypermedia reading comprehension.”

Motivate to read more

The fact that people read increasingly less is a development Segers sees as a deterioration. “It is a challenge to conduct research into how digital media can motivate children to read more. Reading is an enrichment, it broadens the knowledge we have about the world. The world needs children who are educated to become global citizens – with know-how, with empathy. That is something acquired through reading, both fiction and non-fiction.”

Research on Reading and Digital Media by endowed chair

The research conducted by Segers concerns designing multimedia environments, and the role of written language and the question of how reading is promoted in those environments. Can young people (learn to) read better, more often, and while having more fun by means of multimedia environments? And do they learn more in these environments? The literacy foundation ‘Stichting Lezen’ expects the research conducted by Segers to lead to more insight into the potential of technological developments for promoting reading.

drs. J.G.M. van den Elshout (Janneke)
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