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Study Finds E-readers can Help Children with Dyslexia

Update Date: Sep 19, 2013 01:56 PM EDT

Dyslexia is a reading disorder that can negatively affect children's learning if left untreated. People with dyslexia cannot process what they are reading because their brains do not recognize and process certain symbols. When dyslexia is diagnosed early on, therapy can significantly improve reading skills. In a new study, researchers found that using e-readers to help teach dyslexic people how to read more efficiently could be very effective.

"The key factor that's important in the effect being helpful is that there's a few words per line," the lead researcher, Dr. Matthew Schneps, from the Science Education Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said reported by BBC News. "We think that could apply on paper, the blackboard or on any device. If people are struggling to red they may want to try to simply blow up text in their small computer-like device to see if having fewer words helps."

For this study, the researchers were interested in examining the effects of using e-readers after hearing from dyslexic people who stated that e-readers gave them the opportunity to read for pleasure. The researchers from the United States looked at 103 students from Landmark High School in Massachusetts, a school that focuses on language disabilities. The students were either given age appropriate reading materials on paper or on e-readers in the forms of an iPod touch and an iPad. The paper reading material was printed in 14-point Times New Roman font with one-inch margins. The devices used 42-point Times New Roman font that consisted of three to four words per line.

The team measured reading speed with a stopwatch and measured reading comprehension using a multiple choice style test. The researchers discovered that the students who have problems with slight-word reading were able to read faster with the e-readers. For students who have difficulty with visual attention spans, the e-readers also helped them read and comprehend the texts more effectively. The researchers believe that the e-readers specifically helped these children because the device was able to present text in short lines using fewer words. This allowed the dyslexic children to be better able to focus on each individual word.

Even though creating short sentences can be done on paper or on computers, some experts believe that e-book formats and e-readers are more accessible and easier to use for children who need to read this way everyday. The e-readers are also handy because they come with a built in dictionary and other software that makes reading easier.

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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