Generating a Love for Reading and Embracing Technological Opportunities in the Classroom

Over the past decade, there has been a clear and dramatic shift in how children are accessing and reading texts, due to technology. Children are putting down print books and magazines in favour of tablets and e-readers. Their habits are changing alongside the evolvement of smart technology, but are classrooms changing with them?

In 2014, the National Literacy Trust Children and Young People’s Reading Report found that the number of children that were reading outside of school had increased from 29.1% in 2010, to 41.4% in 2014, which coincides with the release of the first ever iPad (in 2010) and correlates with the leading rise in popularity of tablets and smartphones. Further research has shown that 39% of children and young people read daily using electronic devices, compared to only 28% that read printed materials. 52% of children favoured reading on an electronic device and only 30% favoured reading in print.

It is important that, as educators, we recognise how our children’s reading habits are changing, and adapt our classrooms to these changes to nurture their love for reading. This may seem daunting for those of us who are comfortable with an environment surrounded by print texts, but outside of the classroom walls there is a technological world that is rapidly influencing children’s preferences on how they enjoy reading.

This raises the questions of, how can teachers and schools embrace technology as a tool for reading for pleasure?

It is understandable that we are hesitant about jumping fully into a technological learning environment, especially when children are immersed in tablets and online gaming outside of the classroom. Could a constant cycle of technology both inside and outside of school create more harm than good? New research has shown that the impact of scrolling through social media and various websites has primed our brains to simply skim read texts, meaning we are not extracting deeper meanings from texts from the lack of patience. Yet when children are reading from a physical book, there are a limited amount of distractions, compared to reading from a tablet or e-book.

Could bringing technology into the classroom serve as a distraction to children’s learning? Should we ensure (or even hold a level of responsibility to enforce) a technological cleanse when they pass through the school gates?

This is when we need to re-think our perceptions of online technology and how we can utilise it to our children’s advantage, rather than simply avoiding the inevitable. Tablets and online devices offer a wider range of texts that schools are not able to access or purchase in print, meaning it can also be a cost-effective measure in the long term!

Where the limitations of a book end, the limitless opportunities of technology can begin. A book has a single purpose – to be read. No distractions or other rules apply. Yet technology and educational software can offer something beyond texts that the children can read. With a small amount of research and training, new technologies can become a crucial tool for reading development. Our children can lose themselves amongst a limitless library of vocabulary-rich stories, meaning they can become more critical over finding stories that pique their interest, rather than labouring through pages of a book that they know they have to read.

When children are engaged, they read with deeper meaning. When they read with deeper meaning, they are understanding what they are reading and can form critical opinions, discuss the contextual boundaries and expand their vocabularies and lexicon.

Technology can also save time, with software that assesses children’s readability levels, monitors progress and works alongside the school curriculum to develop life-long readers.

Can your books do that?