Back to School Means Back to Paper


It’s that time of year. The back-to-school aisles crowd our favorite stores, and kids shriek at the first sight of those piles of binders, folders and backpacks.

Shriek they may, but once it’s time to fill those bags, 94% of them say it’s easier to concentrate while reading on paper than on a digital screen, according to the 2015 Annual Back-to-School Report from the Paper and Packaging Board.

“Building on recent studies showing that learners retain more information when reading on paper, the report reveals that paper may be even more important to the classroom now than it was before the digital revolution,” notes this press release from the board.

The report cements what we already knew about paper’s higher retention and comprehension, as well as college students’ preference for printed text books. And it sheds light on a new angle when it comes to working outside the classroom. Three out of four parents, according to the research, feel more comfortable helping their kids with their homework on paper, rather than on a screen.

“With the advent of so much technology that makes learning more interactive and vibrant, we forget that sometimes the best way to remember things is by simply writing them down,” wrote 2012 National Teacher of the Year, Rebecca Mieliwocki, whose 9 Productive Learning Tips for Kids, Families and Teachers are included in the report.

“Unlike typing, the act of writing down information increases retention of that information and stores more of it into working and long-term memory.”

This has huge implications for learning, including these important findings:

  • 98 percent of parents surveyed believe teachers should encourage certain tasks that require paper, like arithmetic, spelling, textbook navigation and dictionary usage.
  • 74 percent of college educators say their students are more likely to stay focused when taking notes on paper than on a laptop.
  • Students who use paper to study for exams are more likely to describe themselves as “hardworking,” “successful” and “focused” than students who study electronically.

If you’re sending your kids back to school, tuck in a few more notebooks. While they might insist they “need” a tablet or a laptop to do their work, the reality is they’ll likely fare far better with paper and pencil.