Circle photo of Stacy Turner outside with notes from the head next to it

I love a good book. There is something about picking one up, feeling and smelling the paper, reading the teaser, and then opening that first page and preparing to begin a new story.

When given the chance, I will choose reading over lots of other activities. For me, it doesn’t really matter if the book is fiction or non-fiction, biography or self-help. I enjoy them all.

I recently read Reader Come Home by Marianne Wolf. Here is one of my favorite passages: “Books are home – real, physical things you can love and cherish.” The physical realness of books contributes to our ability to enter the space where we can dwell unjudged with our hard-won thoughts and multilayered emotions and feel we have found our way home.

As technology continues advancing at high speed and with the introduction of e-readers, including the growing popularity of digital reading platforms, reading has changed in recent years. Social media and video games have replaced the ways in which we traditionally read and tell stories. With books, curriculum, and even degrees now delivered online, exposure to digital reading is ubiquitous and often introduced at an early age. Virtual learning platforms exploded in popularity in recent years, especially during the pandemic, and the prevalence of technology in the classroom has impacted how we teach.

Technology long ago shifted from a luxury to a necessity in order to keep up with a highly-connected and global society.

Given these widespread behavior and societal changes, it begs the question of what will happen to traditional print books. As it turns out, according to science, print books can be better for your brain and health. In fact, studies show there are lots of benefits to reading traditional print books.

First, and a sentiment I truly agree with - books make us happy! One unique study showed how the smell of an old book can invoke the same enjoyment you can get from smelling perfume or flowers. Studies have also shown that exposure to books help students perform better in school, inspire us to travel, and encourage us to make change in our lives.

Readers of print books absorb and remember more of the plot than readers of e-books do. In addition, they experience more empathy, immersion in the book, and understanding of the narrative. Researchers think this could be linked to the tactile sensation of holding a book in your hands. Turning pages and advancing through a story help the reader track a plot and experience the narrative as it is unfolding – not just literally but figuratively. With a print book, you can turn back a few pages to review something or skip forward (if you need a sneak peak of the action) with ease. You see it on the page and feel it with your hands. This is called kinesthetic learning.

A kinesthetic-tactile learning style requires manipulating or touching material to learn.

Digital readers tend to surface scan for words rather that process material deeply. This is a new phenomenon. When designing digital copy, developers typically adopt an F pattern or a Z pattern. An F pattern is the most common eye pattern for scanning, followed by Z pattern. The point to note here – the way digital copy is written is intended to make it easier for a reader to scan. In our fast-paced digital world, we have been trained to scan through a vast array of content. It has evolved in a way to help us process through a lot of information quickly.

With a print book, it’s simply not possible to click on a link or follow an advertisement, or otherwise get distracted with random content being directed at you.

Is all this bad? No, but it is helpful to understand. This is why we will always have traditional print books and a library at Hamlin Robinson School. We want our students to have access to the vast benefits offered by traditional print books – and at the same time, we will continue to embrace technology as it evolves. With assistive reading devices, dyslexic students can listen to words while scanning text or visualizing the narrative. This method can help improve reading speed, develop visualization skills, and some students report it helps them see whole words instead of strings of letters.

As a book-lover, I just prefer the traditional print option and value the sensation of a bound paper book.

They look and smell good, and each new books represents promise and opportunity. When you open one up, you just never know what you will discover and learn. It is our goal for every student at Hamlin Robinson to find joy in reading, to be exposed to the variety of information found in books, and to be inspired by the stories discovered between the pages of a book, no matter what kind of book they choose.

Stacy Turner
Head of School