Albion Monitor /News

Children Absorb More From TV Than Books

Across the board, children who watched television "news reports" recalled more than children who read printed versions
If you want to teach a child, forget those old-fashioned books; kids remember information better when it's shown and explained on TV, according to a new study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

By contrast, adults remember more of what they read, possibly because adults take advantage of the freedom to re-read printed material.

Psychologists at Leiden University in The Netherlands wanted to see if the results of previous studies comparing the recall of television and print news information in educated adults would apply to children as well. All the earlier studies (except one, which found no difference) found that adults remembered more of what they read than what they saw on television.

The researchers designed a study in which 152 fourth- and sixth-grade children (between ages 10 and 12) were presented with five children's news stories, either in their original televised form or in a verbatim printed version.

Some of the children were told they would be tested on what they read or saw (to simulate a school setting) and others were not told that they would be tested (to simulate watching or reading at home). The television version of the five stories lasted 11 minutes and was viewed once; the children reading the printed versions could take as long as they needed to read them.

Across the board, children who watched the television news reports recalled more of what they viewed than the children who read the printed versions, which carried no photos or illustrations.

There were some differences, however. Experienced readers remembered more from either medium than the less proficient readers (poor readers were excluded from the study). Also, older children expended greater mental effort when told they would be tested.

The children who watched the televised version recalled the most when details were both described and shown, better than those weren't shown accompanying pictures. In other words, the television items were particularly effective (compared with the printed versions) when the children received the news via both spoken commentary and pictures that presented more or less the same information.

"The results of this study," the researchers conclude, "are 'good news' for children... [In] instructional settings, the study suggests that television news that is adapted to children's level of understanding and that effectively uses television's ability to convey news both verbally and visually may be an effective aid to the teacher."

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Albion Monitor March 14, 1997 (

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