Literacy

Cultivating a Love of Reading in the Digital Age

Four tips for taking advantage of apps and other tools to encourage students to read.
Children in a classroom read texts in books and tablet computers.
©Shutterstock.com/Monkey Business Images

Do your students turn the pages of a book or swipe the screen of a tablet as they read a new story? When children scroll through a blog post like the one you’re reading, how do they know when to pause, click, share, or talk about what they’ve read? 

Today’s readers are diving into text in ways we simply couldn’t imagine a decade or two ago. They navigate a new world of print and digital reading material, and our work as educators is to prepare them to grow and shine as readers.

4 Tips for Using Technology in Reading Instruction

1. Learn about their interests to give them a choice in what they read: Students have interests big and small, and giving them a choice in the texts they read can help them explore current interests and learn about new things.

You can poll the class using a tool like Kahoot to gauge student interest as you build a classroom library, or use virtual exit slips to get a feel for topics students would like to learn more about. Using this information, you can help guide students toward high-quality books of interest or give them the time and space to explore your classroom or school library.

2. Provide access to a wide variety of texts: With a digital device in their hand, it’s easier than ever for students to search for an article, blog post, or ebook on a topic of interest. Helping them grow to be curators of high-quality reading material is important. 

Students who have the world at their fingertips can benefit from guidance as they search for new reading materials. You might introduce them to the reading recommendations in a tool like MoxieReader as they search for a new book, or incorporate weekly book shares into your schedule utilizing a tool like Flipgrid.

3. Find mentor readers to inspire them: We often turn to mentor texts to help students grow as writers by learning from strong examples from different authors. Students need mentors as readers as well. They may have people in their lives who share their experience as readers and love for different genres, but you can try to provide them with mentors.

A Google Hangout or Skype call with a fellow book lover can help students value lifelong reading habits. If you have a friend who is a literature professor, or if there are alumni of your school with a passion for reading mystery books or another genre your students show an interest in, you can set up a video conference and have them come into your class virtually to share their love of reading.

4. Foster a community of supportive and encouraging fellow readers: Students who are surrounded with readers who are passionate about reading online news articles or listening to picture books being read aloud can view themselves as members of a reading community.

You might read a print book to your class and pause for a backchannel discussion using a tool like TodaysMeet. Set up a backchannel room and have students, working in pairs, join the room. You can give them a prompt before or during the reading and have them discuss it with their partners before typing in their single agreed-upon response. This way students can practice both talking to the person next to them face-to-face and participating in an online space to comment about a book.

Alternatively, your reading community might extend outside of the walls of your classroom, leveraging the power of social media to tweet and share reading experiences. Many authors can be found on Twitter, and you or your students can post tweets that tag those authors. If your students pose a question for an author, they’re not guaranteed a response, but they will be practicing a range of skills as they tweet.

As you work to combine both print and digital reading experiences, you are preparing students to navigate a new world as readers. This is powerful, important work that crosses grade levels and content areas.

Some Things Haven’t Changed

Even in a world with all this technology, it’s still important to allow time for reading in class. Although carving out time in our days is easier said than done, think about the moments in your day when your students are reading independently. Is it just the right amount of time, or not enough? Do students have time to peruse and choose what they read?

Setting aside time on the schedule shows students you value their reading lives and encourages them to spend time in new books and old favorites.

The tips above are adapted from Taming the Wild Text: Literacy Strategies for Today’s Reader, a book I co-authored with LitWorld founder Pam Allyn earlier this year. We wanted to explore how to make the most of the wide range of reading opportunities available for students.