by Elizabeth Dobler
A time indicator, similar to those found on YouTube videos, is beginning to appear on website articles and blog posts. I hadn’t noticed this until I read W. Ian O’Byrne’s article, “Tweaking WordPress to Scaffold and Empower Your Readers.” In the article, O’Byrne discusses his decision to add an indicator to his blog that estimates the amount of time it will take to read a post. His article includes an image of what the reading-time indicator looks like.
Many factors can impact reading time, including interest in the topic, vocabulary difficulty, concept complexity, and the number and type of graphics. And let’s not forget the inherent distractions that are possible when reading online. Medium.com explains more about how reading time is calculated and analyzes “time points” and how they contribute to calculating reading time. Essentially, the Web is reading our reading habits and using that data to influence the reading experience.
After reading O’Byrne’s article, my thoughts quickly led me to wonder how reading-time indicators would impact children. Would they try to time themselves and attempt to beat a reading time that was likely calculated for adults? Those who work with children may agree that this would mean less-efficient reading and less emphasis on comprehension.
In a perfect world, children would be reading websites designed specifically for young readers. But the Internet is far from perfect, and children often read articles written for an older audience. To compensate, teachers can explain that reading-time indicators are only a rough estimate and that many factors can cause a person to read faster or slower than the suggested time. Above all, students should be taught to read with purpose. Before they read online, encourage students to consider:
- Why am I reading this article?
- What do I hope to learn?
- What do I plan to do with the information?
- How closely do I need to read this article to meet my purpose?
Answering these questions can help students view reading-time indicators as a guide, and not a gauge.