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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Digital readers crave excitment

Digital media is changing reading habits, writes Holly Korbey on Mind/Shift.

She cites cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham, author of The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads and the father of four children.

Digital kids “have less patience for being bored,” says Willingham. “What I think that all the digital activities have in common is that, with very little effort from me, something interesting happens. And if I’m bored, another interesting experience is very easy to obtain.”

Willingham said it’s a mistake for adults to deny the fun of a kitty cat video or Buzzfeed listicle—but instead to help kids distinguish between the easy pleasures of some digital media, and the more complex payoff that comes when reaching the end of the Harry Potter series. He recommends telling kids that you want them to experience both, part of a larger strategy to make reading a family value. Taking time to experience the slower pace and pleasures of reading is especially important for younger children, and Willingham is in favor of limiting screen time in order to give kids space to discover the pleasures of reading.

Online reading can be harder than reading a paper book, writes Korbey. Julie Coiro, a University of Rhode Island researcher, studies reading by middle and high school students.

Each time a student reads online content, Coiro said, they are faced with almost limitless input and decisions, including images, video and multiple hyperlinks that lead to even more information. As kids navigate a website, they must constantly ask themselves: is this the information I’m looking for? What if I click on one of the many links, will that get me closer or farther away from what I need?

Good readers of print media aren’t always good readers online, she found in a study of middle schoolers.

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