3 Digital texts
Readers can be deeply and meaningfully engaged with print or digital texts. The latter, however, are often portrayed negatively in the media (Crum, 2015) creating concerns for parents and practitioners. In addition, print and digital texts are often pitted against one another. What is more important than the format, though, is the different types of reading engagement that it triggers.
Comparing print and digital reading creates a false dichotomy. Some studies have found greater learning benefits for print books (Munzer et al., 2019) and some for digital books (Strouse & Ganea, 2017). The results of these studies depended on which type of book was tested, with which group of children and in which context.
Many children’s contemporary reading experiences happen on and with screens, but research reveals that children use both formats, and flexibly switch media according to their personal purposes and preferences (O’Donnell and Hallam, 2014). It is important to avoid seeing one reading medium in isolation from the other. Both print and digital texts can be good and poor quality, contain fascinating or unsuitable content and have design features that may or may not encourage a meaningful experience for the reader (Kucirkova and Cremin, 2020). The pleasure and meaning involved will always also depend upon the context and the reader. For instance, if you are in bed on a cold winter’s evening with a hot drink and a novel, physical and sensory factors will shape and influence your experience of reading. They will also impact upon your personal response to the text and the meanings you make, regardless of whether your novel is in print or on a Kindle, for example.
Personal reflection 1
Think about your own preferences for digital and print texts. When reading a novel, do you prefer print or an eBook? If you are shopping at home, do you prefer a website or a catalogue? What is it about the different media that steers your preference?
Now reflect on your attitude toward children’s use of digital texts. Whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable with children reading on screen – what do you feel steers your perspective?
Media preferences are very individual. There is no doubt that email is quick and convenient, yet many people enjoy receiving a letter or card in the post. E-safety is a real concern for many and the need for filters when younger children are using the internet is clear. However, digital media also offers children access to a wide range of literature and other texts. Therefore, it is important to take a wide-angled and balanced view of the affordances and challenges of both print and digital texts.
The next section discusses the wide range of printed and digital material that comes under the umbrella term of children’s texts.