Middle school boys rated reading more valuable as an activity after two months of using an ereader, according to a study by researchers in Texas.
Classroom time spent using ereaders produced a positive attitude in boys in reading improvement classes at an urban middle school. However, the researchers from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas found the opposite result in girls.
“Whatever is causing them to value reading, we have to do more research, because we want to help those boys who are reluctant to read,” says Dara Williams-Rossi, co-author of “Reluctant Readers in Middle School: Successful Engagement with Test Using the E-Reader” and an assistant clinical professor in SMU’s Department of Teaching and Learning. “But while boys valued reading more, we found that girls’ reading was valued less.”
As the use of ereaders grows in K–12 schools, school librarians and other educators want to learn how best to adopt devices for student use. But many schools are still in the pilot stage, and it’s unclear how they will eventually integrate these digital tools.
Researchers worked with 199 middle school students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area over two months, specifically using Kindles. A local Rotary Club looking to support the use of ereaders in schools donated the devices, says Williams-Rossi.
While the Kindles were populated with a variety of titles, from classics including The Wizard of Oz to more current stories such as They’re Coming for You: Scary Stories that Scream to be Read (Penn-Coughin, 2011), students were allowed to choose what they wanted to read during 15- to 25-minute silent reading periods in class. The most popular choices were the scarier books, notes Williams-Rossi.
This first study, part of a three-year research project, was originally not geared toward gender, says Williams-Rossi. Instead, researchers had set out to find if ereaders affected state reading scores. They didn’t, she says. But as the authors began to look through the results, they noted differences between how girls and boys responded to the Kindle experience.
Girls actually valued reading less, according to questions posed before and after they used the ereaders that focused on their feelings about reading, with boys expressing the opposite says Williams-Rossi. With the second part of the three-year study now underway, researchers will track some of the original study subjects to try to figure out why.
“We don’t know what about the Kindles is causing the value to go up and down,” she says. “So we’ll be following up with these students.”
Photo by Annie Mole.