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E-Readers Easier for Dyslexics


Former Moderator
When e-readers display only a few words per line, some people with dyslexia can read more easily, quickly and with greater comprehension, researchers have discovered.

Matthew H. Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the lead author of the research, has previously conducted a a similar study where he discovered that the use of short lines improves the efficiency of eye movements in dyslexic students. This study differs because Schneps examines the specific role the small hand-held reader has on comprehension. The findings are published in the Sept. 18 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

In many cases of dyslexia there is an element called visual attention deficit, which is marked by an inability to concentrate on letters within words or words within lines of text. Using short lines on an e-reader can alleviate these issues and promote reading by reducing visual distractions within the text.

The study included 103 students with dyslexia at a high school in Boston, who were tested on their reading comprehension and reading speed. Reading on paper was compared with reading on small hand-held e-readers, that were set up to only include lines of text that were two to three words long.

The use of an e-reader significantly improved speed and comprehension in many of the students. Those students with a pronounced visual attention deficit benefited most from reading text on a handheld device versus on paper, while the students without visual attention deficit did not benefit from an e-reader. The small screen on a handheld device displaying few words, versus a full sheet of paper, is believed to narrow the reader's focus, helping them control visual distractions.

"At least a third of those with dyslexia we tested have these issues with visual attention and are helped by reading on the e-reader," said Schneps. "For those who don't have these issues, the study showed that the traditional ways of displaying text are better."

As e-readers grow in popularity as alternatives to traditional books, these findings suggest that this reading method can be an effective intervention for struggling readers and can perhaps become an educational resource for those with dyslexia.