ERIC Identifier: ED272855
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Author: Lehr, Fran
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading
and Communication Skills Urbana IL.
Television Viewing and Reading. ERIC Digest.
The average child entering first grade has spent nearly 5,000 hours
watching television, and that same child by age eighteen will have spent more
time watching television than attending school (Finn, 1980). Data from the
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (1986) indicate a continued
deficiency in advanced reading skills among students in all age groups and a
leveling-off of the upward trend in the reading performance of 9- and
11-year-old children between 1980 and 1984. In addition, a survey by the Book
Industry Study Group (1984) shows that the proportion of young people between
the ages of 16 and 21 who read regularly declined from 75 percent in 1978 to 63
percent in 1983. While researchers have explored the relationships between
televiewing and reading performance for more than a decade, figures such as
these are prompting a renewed interest in the subject. This digest will look at
recent research dealing with (1) the relationship between amount of televiewing
and reading performance, (2) the effects of televiewing on reading habits and
preferences, and (3) how educators can use television to promote reading.
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AMOUNT OF TELEVISION VIEWING AND READING
Research on relationships between amount of televiewing and reading has
generally shown negative correlations between large amounts of viewing and
reading achievement. But sophisticated methodologies reveal the connection to be
complex. In a 1982 meta-analysis of 23 studies dealing with television and
achievement in various academic areas, Williams and her colleagues (1982) showed
that some televiewing was beneficial, with viewing up to 10 hours a week
correlating positively with reading achievement. Beyond this amount, however,
the correlation is negative; reading achievement declines sharply with increased
Bossing and Burgess (1984) found low reading scores more common among
third-grade students who watched more than 22 hours of television a week. They
did not, however, suggest this to be a cause-and-effect relationship. The NAEP
surveys from 1980 to 1984 reveal that students who watch up to 2 hours of
television per day (up to 5 hours a day for 9-year-olds) have reading
proficiency levels above average for their age groups, but that viewing levels
of 6 or more hours a day are consistently and strongly related to lower
proficiency across age groups.
Bachen and her colleagues (1982) studied connections among second-, third-,
and sixth-grade students' socioeconomic status; home environment; television
usage, including amount of time spent viewing; cognitive involvement, including
reasons for viewing; and reading achievement. While amount of viewing was
related to low achievement, the stronger negative influence was related to the
reasons for watching television. Children who watched in order to escape from
family or school concerns read less and scored lower in achievement.
DOES TELEVIEWING AFFECT READING HABITS AND PREFERENCES?
There is some evidence that children who are heavy television viewers dislike
reading and tend to read materials of lower quality. Neuman and Prowda (1981)
gathered information about viewing habits, reading attitudes, and reading
materials in the homes of more than 8,000 fourth-, eighth-, and eleventh-grade
students in Connecticut. The number of students reporting "enjoyment" of reading
decreased with age, while the number of those reporting a "dislike" of reading
increased. Neuman (1982) looked at students' preferences for reading or
television viewing and the quality of their leisure reading material.
Approximately 200 middle-class students in grades 4-6 kept television and
reading logs for a month. Using the Gray and Rogers Reading Maturity Scale to
rate quality of materials read, Neuman found that students who preferred reading
to television read the highest quality books, while heavy television viewers
(more than 3 hours a day) and light readers (fewer than 2 books a month) chose
books of lower quality.
Morgan (1980) used scores on standardized achievement and IQ tests, as well
as data completed by more than 600 students and their parents, representing a
variety of socioeconomic levels, to examine how reading habits and preferences
were related to televiewing. He concluded that heavy viewers (more than 5 hours
a day) tended to read teen romances and books about celebrities, while light
viewers (under three and a half hours) read science fiction, mysteries and
HOW CAN EDUCATORS USE TELEVISION TO PROMOTE READING?
Children do learn from television, and educators can use its appeal to
improve reading skills and promote leisure reading. Activities that involve
adult guidance and selective viewing seem to be the most effective. For example,
Mangieri and Arthur (1978) investigated the effects of "guided television
viewing" on listening skills and found that third-grade children who received
such guidance scored higher on standardized listening and reading tests than did
students who received instruction from an educational publisher's listening
Lee (1980) examined student, teacher, and parent reactions to a program in
which elementary school students read scripts prior to viewing television shows
and then engaged in class discussions and other activities related to the show.
Overwhelmingly, teachers, students, and parents thought the program increased
student interest in and enjoyment of reading. Students reported that the program
enhanced their story comprehension and appreciation of characterization, and
teachers said it worked well with all reading levels.
The CBS Television Reading Program (1979) uses scripts of shows--especially
those adapted from classic literary works--as the basis for discussion and
reading activities. Evaluations have generally been positive. Teachers report
that the program prompts junior high school students from varied socioeconomic
backgrounds to read worthwhile materials and increases their motivation to read.
Television rivals both the family and the school as a shaping force in the
lives of children, a situation not likely to change soon. There is a distinct
need for efforts that involve both parents and educators in finding methods to
help students become selective, critical viewers who can deal proficiently with
both visual and print media.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bachen, Christine M., M.C. Hornby, D.F. Roberts, and Pedro Hernandez-Ramos.
TELEVISION VIEWING BEHAVIOR AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF READING SKILLS: SURVEY
EVIDENCE. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational
Research Association, New York, March 1982. ED 214 150.
Bossing, Lewis, and Linda Bost Burgess. TELEVISION VIEWING: ITS RELATIONSHIP
TO READING ACHIEVEMENT OF THIRD GRADE STUDENTS. ED 252 816.
Columbia Broadcasting System. TELEVISION AND THE CLASSROOM: A SPECIAL
RELATIONSHIP. A REPORT ON THE CBS TELEVISION READING PROGRAM. HOW IT WORKS, HOW
IT BEGAN, AND HOW TEACHERS, STUDENTS, AND PARENTS FEEL ABOUT IT. New York:
Columbia Broadcasting System, 1979. ED 188 596.
Finn, Peter. "Developing Critical Television Viewing Skills." EDUCATIONAL
FORUM 44 (1980): 473-482.
Lee, Barbara. "Prime Time in the Classroom." JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION 30
Mangieri, John N., and Sharon V. Arthur. LISTEN TO TELEVISION. Columbia:
University of South Carolina, 1978. ED 172 240.
Morgan, Michael. "Television Viewing and Reading: Does More Equal Better?"
JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION 30 (1980): 159-165.
National Assessment of Educational Progress. THE READING REPORT CARD:
PROGRESS TOWARD EXCELLENCE IN OUR SCHOOLS. TRENDS IN READING OVER FOUR NATIONAL
ASSESSMENTS, 1971-1984. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 1986. ED 264
Neuman, Susan B. TELEVISION VIEWING AND LEISURE READING: A QUALITATIVE
ANALYSIS. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational
Research Association, New York, March 1982. ED 214 106.
Neuman, Susan B., and Peter Prowda. TELEVISION VIEWING AND READING
ACHIEVEMENT. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational
Research Association, Los Angeles, California, April 1981. ED 200 937.
THE 1983 CONSUMER RESEARCH STUDY ON READING AND BOOK PUBLISHING. New York:
Prepared by Market Facts, Inc., for the Book Industry Study Group, Inc., 1984.
Williams, P.A., E.H. Haertel, G.D. Haertel, and H.J. Walberg. "The Impact of
Leisure-Time Television on School Learning: A Research Synthesis." AMERICAN
EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL 19 (1982): 19-50.