Digital reading has offered up a host of benefits to readers. Everything from price and portability of content, to the option to increase font size has led to a broad adoption of e-reading across a wide variety of devices. One of the surprises in e-reading was the growing adoption of smartphone reading, as many critics still insist they could never enjoy content on “that little screen.”
But a new study of 103 high school students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia has shown a connection between “that little screen” and increased comprehension of text. The smaller screen sizes associated with tablets, phablets, and smartphones has meant that text is broken up into smaller sections per line, sometimes as few as two or three words. Researchers believe this allows the brain to see and read only the text that is on that line, rather than having the words jumbled together by having a more traditional paper-reading word count.
According to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE, “A number of investigators have previously proposed that adjustments in formatting or display of text may facilitate reading in dyslexia. Suggestions have included modifications to fonts, rearrangements in page formatting, as well as a variety of methods to control the dynamics of reading. While, in some cases, benefits were noted, the effects were generally small and, occasionally, controversial and difficult to reproduce. One notable exception are findings demonstrating that increasing inter-letter spacing facilitates reading in children with dyslexia, presumably by counteracting an effect known as crowding that impairs object recognition in the presence of clutter, an effect observed to be more severe in many people with dyslexia.”
Digital reading has already been incorporated into educational practice for a wide variety of students who struggle to maintain a grade-level score in reading, especially students on the autism spectrum and students who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In the case of those particular students, e-reading has been incorporated in order to minimize distractions and outside stimulii, but the dyslexia study reveals that it is not just the way students interact with a text that can affect comprehension, but the look of the text itself.