Printed vs digital text: A meta-analysis

A meta-analysis in the Journal of Research in Reading has synthesised the findings of studies comparing print and digital text regarding time required to read, reading comprehension and readers’ perceptions of their comprehension. Researcher Virginia Clinton performed a systematic literature review, only including studies using random assignment and that were published between 2008 and 2018, yielding 29 reports of 33 studies for analysis. She found that readers require equal amounts of time to read print and digital text, although screen reading negatively impacted reading comprehension (effect size = -0.25). Readers were more accurately able to judge their comprehension on paper (effect size = +0.20) than on screen.

The negative effect on performance for reading text from screens rather than paper did not vary for readers who were adults or children (under 18). However, the author suggests this finding should be interpreted with caution because there were more studies with adult participants (26) than child participants (7).

Best Evidence in Brief reported on an earlier meta-analysis solely examining reading comprehension, whose results also favoured printed text.

Source: Reading from paper compared to screens: A systematic review and meta‐analysis (May 2019), Journal of Research in Reading, volume 42, issue 2

Examining the connection between music and reading

This study published in Journal of Research in Reading examines the correlation between musical skills and reading skills, and investigates whether musical training has a positive effect on reading ability. A total of 159 primary school children from eight classes in Germany participated in the study. Children in the experimental group received special musical training twice a week for eight months, while children in the comparison group had additional training in visual arts to the same extent as the musical training. A second comparison group did not receive any special training for the period of the study. Assignment to the different groups was randomised.

Pre-tests (a standardised test, a questionnaire that explored socio-economic background, and music and reading measurements) were conducted before the training began, and then reading skills and musical ability were tested again immediately after the training had been administered. Key findings were as follows:

  • Rhythmical abilities (the ability to differentiate between rhythmic patterns and tone lengths) were correlated significantly positively with decoding skills (both reading accuracy and reading prosody – the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech).
  • Tonal skills (discrimination of pitch and melodic/tonal patterns) were not correlated with reading skills.
  • The special musical training had a significant effect on reading accuracy in word reading.

Source: The Effects of Musical Training on the Decoding Skills of German-speaking Primary School Children (2013), Journal of Research in Reading.