Finding the Right Mix of Print and Digital Text for Student Reading

Education technology that supports personalized literacy continues to thrive in school districts across the nation due to its increased availability, high learner engagement, and ability to support personalized learning and assess student outcomes. Printed texts are still important as well, but they are seeing strong competition from their digital counterparts.

How do educators determine when to use digital or print literacy tools? We’re here to help cut through the clutter by assessing the pros of both to ensure that you’re using the right medium at the right time.

Pros of Digital Reading

Digital tools: Reading books on a digital platform or e-reader provides features not available when reading the same title in print. Audio, embedded dictionaries, text highlighting, and annotations are common features that personalize literacy for struggling and proficient readers.
Accessibility: Finding the right e-book can happen anytime, anywhere, 24/7 with internet access. This accessibility can provide students varied content that matches their interests at the click of a button. Instant access to up-to-date texts is a possibility with digital books.
Meeting students where they are: Leaners live in a digital world. Students have the perception that learning on a computer is “fun” or “interesting,” increasing student engagement in reading when digital is an option.

Pros of Print Reading

Less distracting: One study showed that students who read digital titles had a harder time focusing and were more prone to being distracted from learning.
Perception of “real learning”: Some educators believe digital reading is too focused on entertainment and can’t lead to real, deep learning in the same way as print. However, experts believe if the design of the text matches the medium, it can be as effective as print for reading comprehension.
Comfort: Students love reading print books in different places and positions (sitting on the floor, lying down, etc.). Reading on a computer can limit the comfort while reading.

It’s important to include a healthy mix of reading both print and digital books to expose students to a variety of practices in reading instruction. While e-books provide digital tools, increase accessibility, and generate excitement about reading, print is able to provide traditional experiences that some students prefer. By providing both options, educators can speak to all students’ interests and needs.

Elyse August

Elyse is Vice President of Services at myON. She has worked with educators, communities, families, and students across the nation to build sustainable programs that promote personalized literacy.