Parents of Students in Grades K through 12 Show Overwhelming Preference for Printed Books Over Digital

The Book Manufacturers Institute (BMI) recently commissioned well-known pollster Frank Luntz to find out how parents view the effectiveness of various learning materials, including books, textbooks and workbooks. The most definitive conclusion was that virtually every parent wants physical materials as part of student learning. 85% of parents want physical books in some form, and 88% think they are important and essential learning tools.

In summarizing the study results, Luntz said, “With parents keenly aware of the shortcomings of online learning thanks to the pandemic, this finding is only surprising in its intensity and uniformity. Every demographic and geographic subgroup agrees: printed materials are essential to student learning.”

In the survey of 1,000 parents of K-12 school children across America, the results could not be more conclusive. Parents are deeply focused on what their children learn and, just as important, how they learn it: by a 69% to 31% margin, parents chose physical over online materials when given the option.

In every possible measurement, parents believe physical books will outperform online. From testing results to successful learning, from knowledge retention to focusing on the subject, parents simply believe the physical book is the superior teaching tool.

The survey showed that frustrations with online learning during COVID are real. More than 80% of parents from all backgrounds (including 74% of those who typically favor online materials) believe printed materials would have made their jobs helping their students learn from home easier.

“Parents are more engaged with their children’s education, and they want the help only physical books, textbooks and workbooks can provide,” Luntz said.

Parents cited distractions that students encounter with online materials, such as the ease of surfing the internet during instruction, as the No. 1 concern in moving away from physical printed materials. It’s why parents believe their kids will comprehend better using physical books and why over 70% of parents would prefer their kids hold a book rather than a tablet.

In addition to commissioning the national poll, BMI asked Dr. Naomi Baron, Professor Emerita of Linguistics at American University, to write a whitepaper that summarizes the scientific research around reading print versus digital and how each impacts learning. Dr. Baron explains, “An abundance of research now substantiates that yes, medium matters for learning. While both print and digital have roles to play, the evidence demonstrates the continuing importance of print for sustained, mindful reading, which is critical to the educational process.”

For complete survey results, visit the BMI website.