A new study from Norway reveals that reading print is actually better for reading comprehension than reading digitally, on the computer or on a tablet. The study was done by the researchers from at the Reading Centre of the The University of Stavanger on a group of 10th graders. The teens were broken up into 2 groups, those who read print and those who read digitally. They were given the same texts, one being fiction and the other non fiction. When they were quizzed on comprehension afterwards, the print group did better overall than the group that read on the computer. Why? Because reading print helps the brain form mental maps.
An obvious difference between PC screens and paper is that paper is material. You can feel the weight, texture and thickness of a pamphlet or a book. You can see where it begins and ends. You can quickly leaf through the pages with your fingers.
This perceptible, direct experience gives you a mental map of the entire text. The brain has an easier task when you can touch as well as see.
Previous research has demonstrated that a mental map is particularly important if the text is long. Lengthy texts call for quicker navigation. You need to be able to leaf back and forth through different parts of the text to see, review and comprehend relationships and contexts.(sciencenordic.com)
This is important to keep in mind when letting young children play with tablets and computers, especially when reading is involved. Although if you do let them read on the computer, I would recommend discussing what they read and asking questions right away, to help reinforce the subject matter. So much is being shifted online, with online textbooks, ebooks, and school digitalizing everything from simple homework assignments to major reports and projects. Especially for young adults, whose brains are still so flexible and developing. We need to make sure they have access to the best possible methods of learning possible. Granted, that’s easier said than done.