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Emma Graves
Mrs. Lohmeyer
English 101
16 April 2017

Reading Comprehension in Online Reading and the Impacts of Rural Communities

Anyone who lives in rural areas of the Midwest can admit that living in small towns and

secluded communities have a certain charm. As one of the 959 people who live in Ipswich, SD I

wouldnt be one to disagree. This charm does not come without strain. Most people in small

towns have to drive long distances in order to have access to what their town does not offer.

Recently, I have come to notice that one primary material that small towns lack access to the

right reading material. In my own town, we have an old library that has a lack of books in

reading material for my generation. Fortunately, we have a small library at our school with more

recent reading material, but the content is lacking. One would think that the next best option

would be to drive the nearest larger town to have a more diverse reading selection. This is not an

option for my town because even though we are only 30 miles away from a town with a good

sized library, we still are not able to get library cards because we are not in the city limits. With

this limited access to these books we, along with many other rural area readers, have turned to

online reading with e-books.

E-books have become very popular in my rural area. In 2012, my towns library began to

have access to audiobooks, e-books, music, and video through South Dakotas Titles to Go. This

has allowed even those in the outskirts of Ipswich to have daily access to books without even

going into town. For those of us who are avid readers, this has become a great resource. E-books
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have not only captured those of us who read for fun but has also become popular in our school

system. Ipswich High School has one English classroom with one English teacher. This teacher

has recently become very devoted to incorporating online reading into our lessons. Instead of

buying new books for every lesson, our students have started to read material from the public

domain. English class now mostly consists of pulling up the reading passages on our computers

as well as completing worksheets and turning them in online. This change has saved the school

money and allows the students to have access to a lot of reading material that we hadnt had

before. However, I am still skeptical of whether this change is really a step forward in my own

education as well as the education of my classmates. The many times that I have read online for

my English class, I have felt like I am not getting the same out of what I am reading as I do when

I read a physical book. When I spoke with classmates in the same lessons, they also had concerns

for their own comprehension and learning of the material they were reading on a screen.

Obviously having access to reading material through online sources is a major benefit for rural

communities, but when it is used for comprehending information online reading is more

detrimental than progressive in our education.

When it comes to the topic of reading comprehension with technology, a lot of people

want to put in their two cents with discussions and studies. A majority of these opinions follow

the idea that reading physical books are better than e-books because of many reasons, not just

comprehension. In Memet Walkers article, New Study Suggests Ebooks Could Negatively

Affect How We Comprehend What We Read, from USA Today College explains a study done

by Heather Schugar and Jordan Schugar at West Chester University that concluded that middle

school students absorb less information from what they read when they read with e-books (par.

3). Schugar explained that the students who read information on e-books werent able to re-tell
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and answer questions as well as the students who read the same information on physical books

(par. 3). An additional article by Ferris Jabr, The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science

of Paper versus Screens, from Scientific American provides even more evidence that e-books

are bad for reading comprehension through the explanation of numerous studies. Jabor reports on

a study done by Anne Mangen, from the University of Stavanger in Norway, 10th grade students

with similar reading abilities were split into two groups who read paper texts and computer texts.

The study concluded that students who read from the computers did worse answering questions

about what they read than the students who read the text on paper (pars. 14-15). Both the

Schugars experiment and Mangens experiment tested younger students, middle school and high

school ages, and got that the results were different in how the students tested depending on how

they read the information they were tested on. Jabr explains that in Kate Garlands study of 50

college students who read information on paper or computer had results where the students

scored equally on their questions about the text they read (par. 20). However, the way that they

remembered the information was different (par. 20). Those who read their information on a

computer remembered more of the information that they had read but did not know the

information (pars 20-21). Garland believes that those who read the information on paper were

able to learn the information more quickly and were able to know the answers instead of having

to remember them (pars. 20-21). Furthermore, Jabr also explains studies that say people who

read information on a screen comprehend less because it is physically and mentally harder (par.

22). Both articles explained that when reading, online comprehension suffers compared to

reading print. Since this is so, I cant help but wonder why we are using this so much in our

school lessons.
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Being from a rural area, I can understand the benefit of online reading, but is it really

worth it when our comprehension of what we are reading is lacking so much? Instead of having

so much online reading incorporated into school, it is a better idea to leave the online reading for

people who read for fun. When a person reads for fun, comprehension what you are reading and

turning the information into knowledge is not the main goal, unlike reading for education. In the

studies conducted by the Schugars and Mangen, it is obvious that comprehending reading and

being able to use that information to then answer questions is hard for students in middle school

and high school. Therefore, teachers who have us read the information online would not be able

to get the best assessment of how we are comprehending the information and it could bring

further trouble to our lessons and learning in the future. At the middle school and high school

levels, students should be reading most of their educational information on printed text so that

they can best comprehend the information that they are learning. When students get to the

college level, they can incorporate more online reading because they will be better able to retain

the information and they could benefit from not having to buy such expensive printed books if

they can find cheaper online books. Still it is best to stray from online reading when trying to

obtain, comprehend, and get the most out of what is being read. Ryan C Christainsen author of

the article, Rural North Dakotans Value Ebooks, Prefer Print, explains that he is in a similar

situation to my own an can understand why my town has turned so readily to e-books because he

explains that rural folks benefit from e-books (pars. 1-8). While Christainsen understands both

sides of the paper and the e-book he also believes that they should be able to co-exist (par. 4). He

believes that, Each format has features that make it special, and while the main feature of

eBooks is access and portability, the printed book (when done well) has a certain physical

beauty, (par. 4). Christiansens beliefs are not wrong in this. Both the e-books and printed books
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have good aspects and bad aspects and if we can arrange for both of them to be used at the

appropriate times than we should be able to get the best out of both of them.

In my reading community, e-books has made a positive impact on the avid readers who

dont always have imminent access to various books. However, in my learning community, e-

books have made a negative impact because of the trouble that it causes for students trying to

comprehend and learn the information. Through many studies it can be concluded that in the

education of middle school and high school students reading information online for educational

purposes will not give the best results for comprehending the information and being about to

understand the information. Once students get to college, they might be able to incorporate more

online reading because they can do better on tests even though they are still only remembering

the information instead of comprehending, but they might have more benefits for online readings

than high school and middle school students would have. Still online reading is best left for those

who are just looking to read for fun and are not focusing largely on comprehending the

information that they are reading.


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Work Cited

Christainsen, Ryan. Rural North Dakotans Value Ebooks, Prefer Print. The Extra. 13 March

2013, http://www.thefmextra.com/rural-north-dakotans-value-ebooks-prefer-print/.

Accessed 15 April 2017. Web.

Jabr, Ferris. The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens

Scientic American. 16 April 201, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-

paper-screens/#. Accessed 12 April 2017. Web.

Walker, Memet. New Study Suggests Ebooks Could Negatively Affect How We Comprehend

What We Read USA Today College. 17 April 2014,

http://college.usatoday.com/2014/04/17/print-vs-ebooks-it-is-so-e-on/. Accessed 12 April

2017. Web.