Screens vs. Books: How Does Technology Impact Literacy?

Source: Ian Chadwick via Scripturient (

In the article “People of the Screen,” Christine Rosen argues that the introduction and assimilation of technology into literacy is the death of books and meaningful reading. She uses the example of the Kindle as to how reading on electronic devices is distracting and doesn’t carry the same weight (literally and intellectually) as reading a physical book does. Younger students are being encouraged to use online resources, which minimize interest in reading and pushes students to pursue media that allow them to be in charge of what they are learning, instead of letting themselves be taught. This can lead to “horizontal reading” (Rosen), which is not critical reading at all. With books becoming less popular, libraries are becoming more in touch with computers and technology, which is against the very institution of a library. In all, adding electronic reading to the definition of literacy is detrimental to understanding the reading and writing of society (Rosen).


In “Expanding the Concept of Literacy,” Elizabeth Daley capitalizes on the importance of using multimedia in the learning process to promote a more well-rounded literacy. She acknowledges that society is becoming more technologically advanced, so it would be harmful to students to not incorporate media and technology in the curriculum. Cinema and music are very important to modern society, and they teach through being shown and shared electronically. Just as a literate person can interpret texts, they need to be able to interpret films and songs to be growing in their literacy. Multimedia language is now what people use to talk, so to avoid such vernacular in order to preserve books is not helpful to anyone (Daley 33). Technology and multimedia language allow for deeper thinking and further idea-sharing, so it should be included in developing literacy.


I agree with Daley, because the world is constantly changing, and so is literacy. You can’t just stick to your guns and preach the solitary necessity of books because you will be left behind as society progressed. Although I do agree that I am more likely to be distracted while reading from my laptop, I am also more likely to incorporate other media in my thinking. As someone who is interested in movies and short films, I know the importance of understanding what you are seeing and looking for deeper meaning. If we are only taught how to read and understand physical books, then how are we going to understand the whole other part of the world we are experiencing? Going right from first grade to college is not ideal or even possible, but that is what it is like to not educate students on the world around them and then expect them to be fully literate while functioning in society.


My view on this debate requires an addition to previous definitions of literacy. In order to be able to communicate effectively, one needs to understand the reading and writing in each context, including multimedia and electronic contexts. Previously I have defined literacy as reading, writing, comprehending, and communicating a given language based on the context, discourse community, and circumstances. I would like to keep my definition the same, because I feel that it is understood that it includes electronic and multimedia communications.


Christine Rosen. “People of the Screen.” The New Atlantis, 2008.

Daley, Elizabeth. “Expanding the Concept of Literacy.” Educause Review, pp. 33–40.


Word Count: 557


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