Digital Reading among Children in Saudi Arabia
A sample of parents in Saudi Arabia was surveyed to find out the reading technologies that children under the age of 12 use, children’s digital reading habits and interests, parents’ roles in encouraging the children to read digitally, the effects of digital reading on children’s reading ability, and to compare digital reading before, during and after the Pandemic. Survey results showed that all the children in the sample use a smart phone to access apps, games, cartoons, and YouTube videos. About 41% use an iPad or tablet and few use their parents or older siblings’ laptops. None of the children in the sample uses an e-reader such as Kindle. 5% do not like to use an iPad/tablet and prefer to use their parents’ smart phones. Children below the age of 6 use touch screen devices in reading the English and Arabic letters, numeracy and words. They enjoy reading on touch screens. 36% of the children in grades 1-3 use touch screen devices in learning to read and 64% use them for games and entertainment. Children in grades 4-6 mainly use touch screen devices to play games, soccer, car races and watch movies mostly in English and do not use those devices for reading purposes. Older children feel that educational and language learning and reading apps are boring. During the pandemic, children used technology intensively due to remote teaching and learning, i.e., more than before and after the Pandemic. About half of the parents do not share, nor supervise reading from touch screen devices with their children whether during, before or after the pandemic. Despite the advancements in digital reading, most parents and children in Saudi Arabia still prefer print books and stories. Mobile audiobooks, electronic reading games, storybooks, picture books and glossy magazines, reading lessons with a digital, human-like character, WhatsApp remote reading, online book clubs, and children's digital libraries are not used. Therefore, this study recommends the integration of digital reading in the school curriculum, raising parents and teachers’ awareness of digital reading devices, reading apps and websites and designing mobile reading apps with interactive features to motivate older children to read Arabic fiction and short stories.