Knowing the actual behavior of readers will help us understand how near work influences a reader's eyes, comfort, reading efficiency, pleasure, and the ability to learn to read. We designed a methodology for reading behavior research, and investigated the reading behavior of emmetropic schoolchildren in China and factors that influence their reading. Children from grades 2 through 5 read text in an armchair, at a desk, and when reading and writing at the desk with three different font sizes. Their preferred reading distance was very near to the eyes, averaging 28.5±6.4cm in the armchair, 25.4±6.6cm at the desk and 20.6±6.5cm in the reading/writing task, and was always slightly closer for the smallest font. Second grade children averaged just a 16.3±4.1cm reading distance in the reading/writing task. Head tilt and angle of gaze were altered by reading condition and font size. Reading speed was fastest at the desk and for those with longer reading distances and, surprisingly, for the smallest font size. Reading behavior is not a fixed entity but differs with grade level and reading condition. This suggests that reading behavior can be altered through better ergonomics and text design which may reduce myopia, aesthenopia, and binocular anomalies and help children read better.
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