How We Read Now: Strategic Choices for Print, Screen, and Audio by Naomi S. Baron is an excellent book for literacy coaches, special educators, parents, and
especially assistive technology specialists.
Baron insists that this book is not about either/or but both/and between print and digital material.
Educators need to be more astute and strategic when we think about content and how the information is read, comprehended, and processed in various containers such as print material, social media, audio books, or hyperlinked textbooks. Purposes should be made very clear before choosing between or both hard copies and digitized material. For example, if a parent wants to improve vocabulary, engagement, or fluency, then digitized material must be chosen carefully as there are many so-called “educational” programs that are simply mesmerizing babysitters with irrelevant bells and whistles. Otherwise, for very young children, the social interaction between the adult, child, and print is best. At the same time, we cannot deny the presence of digital material in our daily lives. Additionally, reading information text (nonlinear processing) as opposed to reading literature (linear processing) requires a closer look whether print is more effective or if digital versions are adequate for the purpose of a quiz, writing a paper, or doing a multimodal project. And should words be read along with audio versions? For decoding? For fluency? For deepening memory? And how do we rewind or gather and annotate?
Quite a few overviews of research studies had caught my attention throughout this book, such as the different outcomes between print and digital versions on high-stakes standardized testing, the complexity of the print versus digital material and the impact on regressive saccades (eye movements), and even research reporting that children interestingly generally prefer to read print over digital material. And that their comprehension along with critical analyses of multiple texts are better using print than digital versions. There are overviews on the differences of length and complexity, and the vetting process, too. There is an interesting research study on the differences between reading articles on a computer or tablet versus printed PDFs of the same articles. There is commentary for readers who are blind and readers with dyslexia or other reading disorders. Yet, some children, especially those who are struggling, are able to jump start their reading with audiobooks before they begin to prefer reading books.
Even though there are a lot of review of the research in comparison and contrast of the multiple literacies, each chapter ended with key takeaways in a bulleted format.
What to do?
“At the core of any answer must be conscious attempts to nurture reading habits that foster learning with both digital and print materials. That is, we first need to recognize there is a problem with the way so many readers approach the task—regardless of the medium. That goes not just for text but for audio and video as well. Medium matters, but even more critical are awareness and mindset” (p. 210).