Dortmund (dpa) - Reading is the alpha and omega. Reading literacy is considered the key to educational success. But how much book does it have to stay and how digital can it become when children learn to read?

A question, which moves to the national reading day (15 November) in the focus. Scientists are making exciting observations on how the brain reacts if it is to master the complex process of "reading a book" or if it is digitally fed.

When reading a book to hang more, it has a higher claim, the neuroscientist and psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer is convinced. "When reading a screen, every nonsense flickers, anyone can write something and send it to the world at the push of a button." He emphasizes: "Reading is learned by reading. If only short messages on small screens are read, that is highly problematic. "

And: "Reading does not make daddling" - even electronic textbooks seduced into daddling, observes the founder of the Transfer Center for Neuroscience and Learning at the University of Ulm. Digital media have no place in elementary schools.

Pointing to investigations by scientists and paediatricians Spitzer warns: Digital media consumption is a pity in kindergarten age language development and lead to disturbances of attention at primary school age.

In the reading competence of children in Germany it hapert significantly, as has been found in studies. According to Stiftung Lesen, one in five primary school children has reading difficulties. Learning researcher Katharina Scheiter says that children and young people read a lot. That's encouraging. "But reading behavior has changed as a result of digitization, even younger children are already reading digitally."

For longer texts, which would be read on the mobile phone, tablet, on the PC or laptop screen, there would be difficulties to process the read more deeply and to store in memory, explains the psychologist from the Leibniz Institute for Knowledge Media (IWM) in Tübingen.

With the digital media you can gain enriching sources such as explanatory videos, pictures, graphics, animations - a plus. "But the big question is: How do we get this all connected?" It is difficult for children, adolescents and even adults to understand the contents of the different sources individually and to relate them to each other.

According to Scheiter, the digital version should have a supporting character above all - as long as they have didactical added value. At home and at school, children need to be introduced to digital use. "Nothing should happen unattended in the classroom and students should not be overwhelmed with the multimedia offer."

She sees an opportunity to close the gap between low-educational and affluent families: "Digital media have great potential for individual support. You can differentiate a lot better. "The classes are very heterogeneous, due in part to different social backgrounds - this is a good way to start digitally.

Brain researcher and psychologist Peter Gerjets looks at the brain. "Digital reading also means multimedia reading, with hyperlinks, moving and interactive graphics, animations - such digital reading elements can put a heavy strain on the brain," explains the IWM expert. This has also been demonstrated in examinations using EEG - current signals are read off the scalp. For example, in an Internet search task, IWM researchers observe a great deal of frontal activity in the brain.

"Reading on the Internet is more exhausting and tends to be more superficial," says Gerjets. "Resources that would be needed for a deep reading are easily wasted by clicking and multimedia." Longer reading does not work as well on screen or screen as reading a book. He also emphasizes: Reading on paper, reading longer texts in books is very important. "It has to stay that way. What you learn - concentration, to follow trains of thought longer - extends the brain. »

Is our control center changing in the head as it switches from digital to digital? The basic mechanism of the brain does not change, but the synaptic structure already changes, explains Gerjets. "What is not activated will be reduced. The brain is like a muscle to train: use it or lose it. "