By Rachel Garvey
A recent study in DCU has found that technology is causing children to read less. Two academics of Dublin College University, Dr Margaret O’Donnell, who lectures in special education, and Dr Therese McPhillips, who is a specialist in literacy, shared that reading is a vital skill, especially in today’s age of information overload.
“The importance of teaching children to read for pleasure – to give them the gift of reading, to read critically, to be able to distinguish fact from fiction – cannot be overstated”, both specialists declared. The ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ research study had shown them that 8,500 children who owned a mobile phone at the age of nine scored 4% less on standardised reading and maths tests at the age of 13. Nowadays, it is very clear to see how children in this generation have become addicted to technology, how we take notice that parents allow technology usage at a young age because it merely keeps their child occupied. Dr O’Donnell emphasised that it was important for parents to support and encourage their children, from a young age, to engage more with an actual book as opposed to reading off a kindle. Evidence is present that having your child engage with reading a book at a young age has an impact on household income or social class. She continued to share that “reading for pleasure among schoolchildren has been shown to have a positive correlation with reading achievement and performance on standardised measures of attainment”. Reading can make such a big impact on an individual’s performance from a young age if it’s encouraged, but if not, then it can have negative effects in the years to come.
Growing up, reading was always a vital part of my daily routine and library visits were weekly. Children can learn a lot from reading a book on fiction, as well as a book on fact, but no matter what genre, the knowledge and inspiration they gain from reading a book is underestimated. At a very young age, there was a bedtime story nearly every night and a book to read every day, no matter if it was an old or new book. After reading from such a young age, I developed an unbreakable passion for books and writing. The enjoyment I experienced from reading a book inspired me to become a writer and return some of that inspiration to readers. Instead, it is clear to see that less children are present in libraries, children would rather watch television in their bedrooms before they sleep, and books have been abandoned for kindles and mobile phones. Studies have shown that children who have a television in their bedroom have poorer reading habits and lower scores in literacy tests.
As someone who is the oldest in her family with two younger siblings, the evidence shown has indeed proven true. There was a sense of pride when you see your two younger siblings enjoying reading a book, whether it’s at home or in school, the memories of library visits are still fond ones. However, over the past few years, there has been a dramatic change and the books have been pushed behind the curtain, replaced with televisions and iPhones. The truth is sad and there is a feeling of uncertainty in what the future will bring us. There is one thing that has stuck with me since I was a child, that the swipe of a page on a screen will never compare to the swipe of a page from an actual book, the scent of the pages wafting towards you, making you feel at ease. You don’t get that with technology, we will never get that sense of ease with technology.