Sunday, February 6, 2011

eReaders, Reluctant Readers, Reading Comprehension, and Self-Efficacy

One of the research questions that intrigues me is how and if eReaders impact reading comprehension, especially with reluctant readers and students with learning disabilities.  Last week, I had a male student come rushing into my office requesting that I purchase an eBook for one of the color Nooks that we circulate.  I began asking him various questions about his reading experience (conducting my own informal study).  One of the questions I asked him was did he prefer reading an eBook over a print book, and if so, why?

The student immediately responded with enthusiasm, "I like to read on the color Nook because I read faster."  That's an important feature for the typical student who wants to get through their assigned reading more quickly, but I also found his response interesting because I had read an article several months ago ( of an informal study done that indicated that people actually read slower on an electronic format.  I did not offer the student that information because that would devalue his belief, and it was only one small study.

I also asked the student if he understood and remembered everything that he read on the ebook compared to print, and he said with much confidence, "I remembered everything I read on the Nook; it's just easier to read."  Now obviously this student's response will not make for a conclusive study on reading comprehension, but it's one piece to consider as I look at more formal ways of assessing comprehension.  I began wondering about the role that self-efficacy plays in reading.  If the student believes he can read faster, and he believes that he understands and remembers the text, shouldn't it have an impact on his reading comprehension?  I would think so because the student would probably approach the text with more confidence and investment.  Self-efficacy and reading comprehension will certainly be an area I will explore in the future with students and eReaders.

The area of vocabulary development and reading comprehension has also been in the forefront of my thoughts.  I have been trying to read all my personal and professional reading on an eReader device or on the iPad so I can immerse myself in the technology and compare it to my experience with print material.  One of the biggest differences is the dictionary and note-taking functions available on the eReaders (specifically the Nook and iPad).  When I have read a book in the past and come across a word I don't know the definition of, I usually try to figure it out in context, usually guess a little, and then move on and enjoy the story or information.  I certainly would never get out of a comfortable chair and run for the dictionary!

When reading an eBook, I now click on any words that I'm not certain of.  I do this because it's easy, I desire to improve my vocabulary, and I realize that if I know the correct meaning of the word, it will afford me a deeper understanding of the text.  I think of all the reluctant readers who don't like to read because of their underdeveloped vocabulary (among many other reasons), and how this definition feature on eReaders will possibly improve vocabulary acquisition and reading comprehension.  Another study to conduct in the future ....

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