Increasing The Divide? Access to Print Books

Policy Brief

Does the Digital World Open Up an Increasing Divide in Access to Print Books?

The report focuses heavily on student success rates according to the number of books available to the student in the home and on the format in which the content is presented. Print is an important differentiator between those scoring well on tests and those who score poorly. 

The bottom line as presented in the report is:

...the issue of equal access to print books should not be forgotten. While disadvantaged students are catching up in terms of access to digital resources, their access to cultural capital like paper books at home has diminished and the socio-economic gap has been persistent. PISA 2018 results also show that the number of books is related to students’ performance in reading and their enjoyment of reading. While the implications of the socio-economic gap in books at home need to be further studied, this policy brief draws education stakeholders’ attention to this persistent disparity, which could potentially result in growing educational inequity.

Pull Quotes

PISA 2018 asked students to what extent the following statements described how they read books: "I rarely or never read books"; "I read books more often in paper format"; "I read books more often on digital devices" (e.g. e-reader, tablet, smartphone, computer); and "I read books equally often in paper format and on digital devices." On average across OECD counties 35% of students responded that they rarely or never read books; 36% responded they read books more often in paper format; 15% reported that they read books more often on digital devices and 12% responded that they read books equally often in papeer format and on digital devices. (Page 4)

Strong readers often use digital devices to read for information such as news or browse the Internet for school work. In contrast, when it comes to books, strong readers tend to read them in paper format or balance their reading time between paper and digital rather than on digital devices. In other words, students who reported reading paper books or balance their reading time between paper and digital tend to achieve higher scores in reading than students who reported reading books on digital devices or never or rarely reading books. (Page 5)