Paper books linked to stronger readers in an international study

An international study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that students who had more books at home reported that they enjoyed reading more. Teens who read more paper books scored higher on reading assessments. Credit: Jill Barshay/The Hechinger Report

There’s a lot to like about digital books. They’re lighter in the backpack and often cheaper than paper books. But a new international readers report suggests that physical books may be important to raising children who become strong.

An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study across approximately 30 countries found that teens who said they most often read paper books scored considerably higher on a 2018 reading test taken by 15-year-olds compared to teens who said they rarely or never read books. Even among students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, those who read books in a paper format scored a whopping 49 points higher on the Program for International Student Assessment, known as PISA. That’s equal to almost 2.5 years of learning. By comparison, students who tended to read books more often on digital devices scored only 15 points higher than students who rarely read – a difference of less than a year’s worth of learning.

In other words, all reading is good, but reading on paper is linked to vastly superior achievement outcomes.

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