Could Texting 2 Much Hurt Kids' Reading Abilities?

Horsham literacy expert John R. Kruidenier, whose articles will be published in an International Dyslexia Association anthology, discusses why older kids struggle more than younger kids with reading.

Have you ever wondered why it’s tougher for older kids to master reading?

Horsham resident and business owner John R. Kruidenier, of , knows and soon he’ll let the world know – or at least the world of literacy experts – through articles in a forthcoming anthology published by the International Dyslexia Association

In them, Kruidenier, a 1991 Harvard University graduate, former teacher and long-time literacy proponent, focuses on the differences between teaching reading to adolescents and children.

“Children have more time to devote to learning to read then adolescents and adults do. One of the most important things that a child will do is spend time on reading on the early grades,” Kruidenier said, adding that by about fourth-grade children shift from learning to read, to reading to learn. “If you have a reading problem the school’s no longer devoting a lot of time to reading. You have to do that probably in a special setting in the school. On top of that, you’re also learning new content. You’re sort of doing twice as much as everyone else.”

The International Dyslexia Association estimates that dyslexia, the most common type of learning disability, affects 15 to 20 percent of Americans, many of whom are never diagnosed. 

To help those with a diagnosis, Kruidenier, in his article, said he incorporated results from a U.S. Department of Education study. Based on scientific research, he said instructors must teach all aspects of reading in order for students to be successful. Kids must learn how to:

  • Decode symbols into words
  • Be able to read quickly and easily
  • Know what the words that have been read actually mean

To further complicate reading matters, some literacy experts believe that the influx of technological advances in terms of electronic media may cause children to develop acquired dyslexia. Most who are afflicted with the learning disability have developmental dyslexia, Kruidenier said.

During the three to four years while a child is learning to read, a “reading network” is being built in the brain, Kruidenier said. The network is not something that people are born with, he said, noting that some believe it could be changed - for the worse - through too much texting and social media. 

“There are those who think that technology’s going to alter the reading network that kids who grow up using electronic media as much as they do books, maybe even reading a lot less … This has the potential to change the way the network is set up and in a way sort of change the way we look at the world,” he said. “That’s not something that there has been a lot of research on. It’s more sort of speculation.”

Does Kruidenier believe it could happen?

“Reading is an acquired skill. You set up this reading network not only through instruction, but through reading,” he said. “If the way you access text changes, then you can see how this would have the potential to change this reading network as well.


David Powell November 28, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Hmm. My wife won an iPod touch last year. We held onto it and gave it to our oldest daughter for her 8th birthday this fall. She's started using a free app called Kik Messenger to send text messages to my wife, myself, and a few other contacts whom we've approved. We're all using complete sentences with her and, surprise, so is she. Text messages are just a medium. Its convenience and availability might make it harder to kick bad habits once they've started, but I suspect that more (as usual) depends on how well kids are being taught by the people around them.


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