Are E-Readers The Answer To Dyslexia?

They seem made to order for the dyslexic, so it’s no wonder educators are turning to e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, for instance, to give an assist to school kids with dyslexia. No one really knows how successful these tools are in providing help to those for whom reading is a chore. That’s because educators have only now begun testing these reading tools on students who struggle with reading disabilities.

Close Look

Researchers are taking a very close look at e-readers right now. No matter what they end up discovering, it’s clear that the new generation of children is acculturated to a digital landscape. Experts and educators need to change their approach to literacy.

A Variety of E-Readers

E-Reading Comfort

The modern student has an intimate knowledge of technology and so may feel more comfortable reading with an e-reader rather than from a book. One recent survey discovered that one-third of 9-17 year-old students said they’d read more books for pleasure if they owned an e-reader. On the other hand, there’s not much research to support any claims that e-readers can ameliorate reading issues.

Available Research

There is one small Israeli study, performed by Bar Ilan University’s Ofra Korat, who heads up the university’s Early Childhood Program, which finds that kindergartners and first graders who use digital readers show better progress than those who read from printed texts when it comes to word comprehension and reading.

Intel's Classmate PC

Audio Files

Today, teachers who don’t make use of e-readers will scan texts for those students with reading issues or visual impairments and use this scanned text to create audio files with the help of special software. Then the students can just listen to the text.

Ben Foss, who created the Intel Reader comments that this process may be effective, but it’s awkward and takes a great deal of time on the part of the teacher. The Intel Reader, on the other hand, is a mobile e-reader that can capture a photo of text and then convert it to an audio file in just seconds. Foss is the director of Intel’s access technology department in Santa Clara, CA.

Reading Independence

Karen Ann Breslow who piloted the Intel Reader with two students last year says that this technology gave students reading independence from their parents and teachers. The reader allows them to read on their own without any need for help from adults. Breslow is sold, feeling that the Intel Reader is liberating for both student and teacher.

Font Size

Another educator, Robyn Rennick, a program coordinator for the Tallahassee, Fla, Dyslexia Research Institute, says that she is loving her Kindle, received as a gift for Christmas. Rennick says that just being able to change the font size may be of assistance for some troubled readers.

But Rennick does caution that many students with reading deficits are dependent on skimming textbook headings for orientation and context. No physical pages to flip through may be a drawback for many of those with reading disabilities.

iPad as an e-reader

Future Features?

David H. Rose, founder and chief education officer of the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), based in Wakefield, Mass., says that e-readers keep students from giving up on reading, which he says is the worst thing that can happen to a kid with reading disabilities. Rose said that educators must now focus on gathering together with e-reader manufacturers to talk about what features they might include in future models to help those with vision and reading impediments.