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Why print is essential for the future of education

A four-year project examining the results of 54 research studies with 170,000 people has concluded that print is vital for effective education.

The argument that reading on paper results in deeper comprehension and retention, concentration, vocabulary building and memory has been given immense weight by a groundbreaking study by Intergraf, the European federation for print and digital communication.

The research examined the results of 54 studies with a total of over 170,000 participants from 19 countries, and found overwhelming evidence that comprehension of text is much stronger when reading from paper as opposed to a screen, particularly when the reader is under time pressure.

Concerned by the effect of increased time spent reading from screens in schools, the international trade body has called upon policy makers and educational organisations at both national and European levels to ensure that print retains a significant role within education.

Better progress with print

Titled E-READ (Evolution of Reading in the Age of Digitisation), the Intergraf study is an impressive feat of research. Taking place over four years, it involved a network of almost 200 academics from all over Europe carrying out highly detailed empirical research and debates about the effects of digitisation on reading, especially for students and young people.

“Students learning from digital devices only progressed one third as much as they would have done had they been reading on paper”

E-READ found that print readers have a better recall of the relationship between events and are able to reconstruct the plot of a text better than screen readers. It was also found that the advantage for print was greater under time constraints and that scrolling resulted in a significant disadvantage for digital reading.

With regard to education, the digital disadvantage during elementary school was found to be two-thirds of the yearly increase in reading comprehension, meaning that students potentially only progressed one-third as much as they would have done had they been reading on paper instead of on a screen.

Paper a technology of proven strengths

The fact that young people only learn one-third as well when reading from a digital device is clearly alarming, and so Intergraf have called for urgent action to be taken at all levels to “ensure that education in Europe is not degraded by the rapid and unsubstantiated introduction of screen reading in schools”.

The statement continues: “The development of students’ reading comprehension and critical thinking skills must be immediately safeguarded. A failure to act on the advice given in such studies creates an immediate risk that students’ learning outcomes will be negatively affected by the increasing tendency of schools in Europe to promote reading on digital devices without the necessary tools and strategies to ensure this does not cause a setback in reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Products which are proven to facilitate comprehension and critical thinking, such as paper books and other printed informational texts, already exist and should not be overlooked. Paper is a technology of proven strengths.”

Urgent action required

The results of the Intergraf study and their recommendations entirely chimes with the work of Two Sides and the results of our recent study into people’s preference for print. The study, titled Busting The Myths, found that 69% of European consumers preferred to read books in print, with 61% preferring print for magazines and 54% for print newspapers.

There are many studies that show that reading in print improves the understanding of information, as well as absorption and recall, which is essential for the education of people of all ages, but especially for young people. This Intergraf study is a vital piece of work that proves once and for all that print is better than digital for learning. Let’s hope the governments and institutions are listening.

For more information about the Intergraf E-READ study, click here