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Reading in a Digital Age


A toddler reading an ipad

Where do books fit in the age of technology? With the amount of time children spend online, are books becoming a thing of the past? Are students giving up on reading for pleasure, or are they just doing so in a different way?

An article by Edutopia.org outlines concerns from educators suggesting that students are struggling to read and comprehend longer texts and read deeply, and many are reporting that they don’t read outside of school at all. Many teachers would attribute this to two things: technology and standardized testing. Students are spending more time online, and though many might be interested in digital texts, the market for young readers is sparse. Plus, much of their reading is done in school, but preparing for standardized testing often makes reading less of an enjoyable experience for students. They are reading short passages or texts and preparing for testing, rather than exploring a variety of texts and reading what engages them on a personal level.

Whether the culprit is technology or testing, the question begs: how can we better engage kids as readers?

The Edutopia article offers a few ideas:

1. Fan fiction – Many young readers are taking to writing fan fiction based on their favourite book series. For example, the Harry Potter Fan Fiction website has over 80,000 stories written by HP fans, and entices young people to not only read stories, but writing as well.

2. Self-published e-books or blogs – Young readers can find blogs that relate to their personal interests, and can even start blogs of their own. Remember, it doesn’t necessarily matter that they are reading online rather than reading books, we just want to get them reading something!

3. Social media – Most young people embrace social media, and “[t]eaching them how to follow articles and news events on social media can lead to deeper conversations about global and local issues.” Again, honing in on students’ personal interests can get them from reading online articles/stories about the subject, to reading hard copy books about the same subject.

4. Variety – “the simplest way to get kids reading more is by giving them exposure to a variety of topics and genres, and by giving them time to explore their passions … If we’re forcing students to read boring test passages over and over, and teaching them that the only purpose behind reading is to perform on a test, then we have only ourselves to blame if students aren’t reading for pleasure.”

Are you the parent of a child who doesn’t like to read? Check out these blogs on how to get students engaged in and excited about reading:

Reluctant Readers to Bookworms

Beat the “This Book is Boring” Blues

How do I help my 4 year old become a reader?

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