Touch-screen technology could be a vital new weapon to combat low literacy levels in the key target groups of boys and disadvantaged children, according to new research published by the National Literacy Trust and Pearson.
This is the second year that the Early Years Literacy Survey has been carried out examining the use and attitudes to books and stories on touch-screen devices with children aged three to five and the influence of reading practices on young children’s vocabularly.
Its findings show the benefits of using touch-screen technology for boys, who engage with reading and educational activities for longer than with books alone.
Twice as many boys as girls look at or read stories on a touch-screen for longer than they look at or read printed stories (24 per cent versus 12 per cent) and more boys than girls use a touch screen for educational activities rather than for entertainment (36 per cent versus 28.2 per cent).
The findings also reveal that technology can be a more engaging learning tool for disadvantaged children at age three to five, than books. Twice as many young children from poorer households with a socio economic grouping of DE read stories on a touch-screen for longer than they read printed stories than children from AB households.
Furthermore, a higher number of children from DE households than AB households use technology more for educational activities than for entertainment (43.2 per cent vs 30.4 per cent).
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust said: “Our second Early Years Literacy Survey with Pearson throws up very interesting evidence on the positive impact of combining technology with books on pre-school children’s vocabulary. Children’s early language and vocabulary skills lay the foundation for their future success and it is crucial that we recognise the opportunities that technology brings for engaging boys and poorer children in reading”.
Additionally, the survey highlights the increasingly significant role that technology plays in the lives of under-fives, both at home and in their pre-school educational environment.
It estimates that now more than 90 per cent of children aged three to five have access to touch-screen technology at home. Access to touch screens in early years settings has doubled since 2013 (from 22 per cent to 41.3 per cent) and nearly a third of all parents say their children read stories on both a touch screen and on paper compared to 70 per cent of parents who say that their children read books only in a typical week.
A varied reading diet could also be a route to improved vocabulary, according to the research findings. Children aged three to five have a wider vocabulary if they read stories in both print form and on a touch-screen compared to those who don’t use technology (20 per cent versus 15 per cent).
The research also explored the use of technology in early years educational settings, and found that the majority of pre-school teachers and practitioners say they want more access to touch-screen technology (60 per cent). However, practitioners feel far more confident sharing stories with children on paper rather than on a touch screen (90 per cent versus 55 per cent), and a quarter do not think technology has a place in their pre-school educational environment.
Julie McCulloch, director of policy and thought leadership at Pearson UK, added: “This research highlights the shifts in literacy learning that are enabled and driven by technology, both in the home and in more formal settings. We’ll be exploring how we can do more to support parents and practitioners to make the most of these trends to support improved outcomes for young people, in the UK and around the world.”
Pearson has announced that it will be directing its flagship social impact campaigns towards improving literacy rates over the next five years.