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Texting can enhance reading and comprehension in school children

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A Curtin University research study involving junior school children has concluded that better interpretation of digital textisms can improve their reading and language skills.

The research by Associate Professor Genevieve Johnson in Curtin’s School of Education has been published in the Internet Journal of Language, Culture and Society.

As part of the study, children in grades three through six translated five common abbreviations used in text messaging and completed two measures of Standard English literacy – reading fluency and sentence comprehension.

“Without exception, those children who correctly defined textisms demonstrated superior skills in reading and comprehension than children who were unable to define common texting terms,” Dr Johnson said.

“The results add to a growing number of studies that conclude a positive association, if not effect, between ‘digitalk’ and traditional literacy across the life span.”

Similar findings have been suggested in other recent research, in contrast to teacher reports.

Such research has focussed primarily on the use of mobile phones as opposed to precise comparison of pencil-and-paper tasks.

“This study reduces confounds by asking children to respond to traditional reading test items and define common textisms in equivalent formats, under identical conditions,” Dr Johnson said.

The two child variables measured in the study were textism comprehension and standardised reading achievement. Both were calculated with a test booklet developed specifically for the study and completed by each child in the presence of their teacher.

While considerable variability existed when assessing the children’s comprehension of digital textisms, significant differences were evident in the reading fluency and sentence comprehension scores of the children who had correctly translated the textism.

“The positive relationship between the children’s ability to translate textisms and their standard reading achievement was evident, if not overwhelming,” Dr Johnson said.

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