Digital vs. Print Reading​

Determining the best balance between digital and print reading experiences for your child can be tricky. There is a tendency to believe that print reading is inherently better than digital reading, but it's not so black and white. Students are asked to read a mix of digital and print material as part of the school experience, and the balance often shifts toward a greater percentage of digital material as they move through middle and high school. Therefore, having both print and digital literacy is important for children.

So what are some of the pros and cons of each?


Print material pros

1. Tactile experience of holding a book

2. No ads, multiple open tabs, or other applications to distract

3. Can be written on (annotations, notes, highlighting)

4. Reading print builds stamina and encourages perseverance, especially longer books

5. Ability to mark the line of text you're reading with a bookmark or piece of paper under the line, which is helpful for students with reading struggles


Print material cons

1. You can't physically transport an entire library (but you can load lots of books onto a Kindle, for instance)

2. Not interactive

3. More easily lost or forgotten (many students forget their book at home/school, but few forget their laptop or phone)


Digital material pros

1. Access to an astonishing variety of text, which increases the likelihood a child will find something interesting to read

2. Interactive text (hyperlinks to related articles, definitions, relevant information)

3. Ability to manipulate font type and size, helpful for dyslexic students or others with reading struggles

4. Text supports like read-to-me functions


Digital material cons

1. The digital environment is more distracting and requires strong executive function skills


2. It can be difficult to determine the quality of online material and one needs to learn how to spot questionable sites and information


3. More time skimming or scanning than in-depth reading


Although it is documented that digital reading encourages skimming and scanning behavior (not just in children, but adults as well), deep reading skills can be taught for both types of reading. Deep reading skills include defining unknown words, searching for the main idea and supporting ideas, and summarizing what you've read. To encourage deeper reading of digital material, ask your child to summarize the chapter or article they have read, or to find a word or two they didn't know in the text and look up the definition. 

If you'd like to explore this topic further, I recommend this article on Mind/Shift