Bringing the Book Club to the 21st Century: eReaders and Literacy Intervention

An adapted version of this post was published on Ed Tech’s website, found here.

“Hey, Mr. Renwick, when are the iPads coming in?”

“They’re not iPads – they are eReaders. I am not sure.”

two days later

“Hey, Mr. Renwick, when are the iPads coming in?”

“They’re not…nevermind. Soon!”

This is a continuous conversation I have been having with one of my 4th graders. He,
along with nine other 4th and 5th graders, will soon be receiving eReaders. They are
members of our after school book club, which also serves as a reading intervention. Our
goal is simple: Get our most reluctant readers to start reading habitually. We believe that
introducing digital books as part of our available library of texts will further engage our
students in this most critical skill.

Why go digital?

The book club students are not lacking in available books to read. Before it started, one
of our reading teachers purchased many high-interest, easy-to-read texts for the
students from a local book store. In addition, the book club meets in our school library
media center. They are surrounded by stories.

Yet proximity does not necessarily mean all students will read. They have had access to
these books for years. Why haven’t they picked them up yet? After reading the current
research on digital literacy, we felt eReaders can increase levels of engagement with
our reluctant readers in a way that print has not thus far. These students, like many their
age, go home after school and play video games or interact on social media. The
diffference is the chance that they will pull even the most engaging text out of their bag
to read independently is less than likely when compared to their peers. But with an
eReader, even the basic ones we have purchased, the relevancy of reading goes up
for these students. We are speaking their language: Technology.

Two Types of Text: Differentiating Our Instruction

It is not that technology is the end all, be all for our students’ reading diet. We see it
rather as a segue to a more literacy-centric life. Words are words. The whole point of
reading is to be engaged and informed. The actual comprehension, enjoyment and
learning happens inside one’s head, not in the text. Both the print and digital word
provide the same thing – an opportunity to experience someone else’s life, a far away
world, or a different culture than our own. The text, regardless of the format, is the
vehicle that takes us there.

That being said, reading print versus digital text requires a shift in instruction. For
starters, students can see their progress with a print book by simply looking at the
thickness of the remaining pages. We will have to teach them how to assess their
reading volume with the percentage complete data on the bottom of the screen. Second, annotating and highlighting important passages in a digital text only demands a
touch of the screen. With print, a packet of sticky notes plus a pencil would be
necessary to curate text that resonated with the reader. As well, there is a certain
getting used to when reading on an eReader for the first time. We are swiping pages
instead of turning them. We can increase the font size if the type is too small on an
eReader. Print books don’t require a charge every month or so. As much as students
enjoy their technology, it comes back to good instruction to show students how to use
it efficiently and effectively.

A Balancing Act

Our book club students were allowed to choose the texts to be downloaded on the
eReaders. As we navigated through all the choices, we slowly realized that there
weren’t a lot of nonfiction books that work with our simple eReaders. That makes sense.
Many newer nonfiction books have lots of graphics, which lend themselves better to
print at this time. It provides a great point I plan to make with our students: Life long
readers rely on a variety of formats when interacting with texts, both digital and in print.
In the mean time, if an eReader gets a student to pick up a book more often, I say why
not?

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

5 thoughts on “Bringing the Book Club to the 21st Century: eReaders and Literacy Intervention”

  1. I dig the concept of eReaders but I guess I am from the old school because I just cannot seem to read books on my laptop. Unless I have the hard copy I really don’t enjoy.

    Like

    1. I agree. I also do not enjoy reading on a laptop. If I find an article I want to read online, I usually save it to Instapaper to read later or just print it out. I do like print for many types of reading, such as educational resources so I can write in the margins.

      You can also email online text to your Kindle and read it on an eReader. My wife gave me her “old” Kindle when she upgraded to the Paper White. I find that device with the eInk technology is great for reading. Very comparable to the printed page.

      Like

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