how and why people engage in these literacy practices. The third section examines various instructional practices and learning environments that promote these proficiencies, especially for adult populations with different levels of literacy. The final section notes that empirical research on the role of new media in adult literacy development is scant, particularly for those adults who struggle with foundational reading and writing skills. The frameworks available in the field of digital media and learning to explain why adults need to develop proficiencies relating to these technologies to meet their learning goals can inform future studies. This issue and recommendations for research are discussed in Chapter 9.


As digital reading—whether on computers or, increasingly, mobile devices—becomes more commonplace, a central question for literacy researchers is how these contexts affect reading patterns and comprehension processes (Alexander and Jetton, 2003). Research on the online reading practices of youth in educational settings has emerged as a focus (Coiro et al., 2009), as has research on the online reading practices of adults, particularly ones who struggle with reading and writing in print (Attar, 2005; Ercetin, 2003; Mackey, 2007; McEneaney et al., 2009; Zhang and Duke, 2008). Early research on online reading processes with proficient readers (both youth and adults) suggests that reading online is not isomorphic with reading print texts (Coiro and Dobler, 2007; Zhang and Duke, 2008). Reading both online and printed texts requires the integration of prior knowledge, the use of inferential reasoning strategies, and frequent self-regulation, but online reading also demands that readers use these skills and strategies in ways that are different and may involve more complex and adaptive combinations (Coiro and Dobler, 2007; Zhang and Duke, 2008).

Readers in online contexts must draw on prior knowledge not only of the topic and text structures but also of online structures such as hyperlinks, websites, and search engines (Coiro and Dobler, 2007; Miller et al., 2004; Zhang and Duke, 2008). While studies have primarily been conducted with proficient youth (Coiro and Dobler, 2007) or proficient adults (Zhang and Duke, 2008), the importance of prior knowledge to reading success suggests that struggling adult readers, particularly those with less prior knowledge about ICT structures, are likely to struggle with online reading, especially since traditional reading competencies are needed in more complex combinations for online comprehension (Cromley and Azevedo, 2009). In addition to drawing on more sources of prior knowledge, readers of online texts must use extended and multilayered inferential reasoning strategies. In particular, they must make more forward inferences, that is, predictions (Coiro and Dobler, 2007), as well as more flexible and adaptive

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement