For dyslexic students, are smart phones easier to read than books?

Matthew Schneps holds a Ph.D. in physics but his success came with a certain measure of challenge. In addition to being an astrophysicist, Schneps is also dyslexic, which means he joins approximately 15 percent of Americans in a struggle to read.

“When I read, I find it’s very hard for me to kind of mentally lock on to the words,” Schneps said.

One thing has helped, however — Schnep’s smart phone, which helped him bridge the distance between his mind and the written word.

But was the device just helpful to him? Or it could it be helpful to others?

In a recent report for the National Science Foundation’s “Science Nation,” NewsHour Science correspondent Miles O’Brien covered Schneps’ exploration of the smart phone as a better reading device for students.

In an initial study, Schneps monitored 100 students with dyslexia while they read on smart phones to see if it improved their comprehension of science, technology, engineering and math lessons. While it aided some students, not all were impacted.

Schneps then turned to an eye tracker to see if students read faster on a smart phone or on a tablet. Overall, the students tested read faster on a smart phone.

Because people with dyslexia tend to get distracted by many words on one page, the key, according to Schneps, is only having two or three words in a line.

While Schneps still has to uncover why some students benefit from reading on devices over paper, he is committed to finding an alternative for scholars like himself.

“For me, the name of the game is to level the playing field,” he said. “To make reading something that’s not an impediment to success.”

Miles O’Brien has more on this story for the National Science Foundation* series “Science Nation.”

*For the record, the National Science Foundation is also an underwriter of the PBS NewsHour.

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