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Literacy in America

Keeping Literacy Going: Technology, Books, and More

Mark Gura

Editor-at-Large, EdTech Digest

The magic of books works miracles on growing minds, and the extended online learning environment facilitates learning and growing.

In the new era of hybrid instruction, the promise of continuing and increased literacy learning is strong. A wonderful cycle of book-centered activities is available through online resources. Informed adults can guide kids by selecting books that inspire, reflecting and making meaning of what they read, reacting to books that inform and move them, and becoming book-inspired writers themselves.  

Getting great things to read

Even with libraries closed, books have never been easier to access. There are free collections of books, chapters and excerpts, and materials to appreciate and understand books online. Digital books make a great part of a balanced reading diet. Of course, kids can always return to reading hard copy things when available. Becoming familiar with digital books adds to the breadth of kids’ literacy. 

Here are a couple of noteworthy online destinations to get great things for kids to read:

Choosing books

Technology enables kids to find their passion for learning through finding and reading their books — books on subjects that fire their imagination and provide the ideas and experiences they hunger for.

When kids know that high interest content is out there, it’s game on; they’ve begun the lifelong reader journey. Their quest, then, becomes: “How do I find that special book?”

There are powerful resources to offer guidance. For teachers and parents, there’s sage advice from sources like Edutopia and the George Lucas Educational Foundations’ online trove of teaching wisdom.

Another powerful resource is WETA Public Broadcasting’s “Start With A Book.” Originally intended to keep kids reading over summer vacation, it’s great support for the current change in schooling.

Teachers are essential in the digital shift

The most important key to growing by reading books and making meaning from their content is still the teacher.

Here’s some advice from Dr. Rose Reissman, a NYC-based school literacy coach and winner of the 2020 ISTE Literacy Network Award:

Select a 75- to 200-word excerpt from a novel or short story that students are unfamiliar with, taking out any character names or specific settings. Challenge students to read this for five minutes and react by writing down their feelings and understandings about any information given. Then, get them to discuss how the story might continue based on evidence in the first lines.

Eventually, give them the title and author, and send them to the web to find summaries of the book which will reveal how accurate their predictions are and if others had similar feelings about it. This can be done in a face-to-face classroom, online, or a hybrid situation. The value is in the thinking provoked and guided.

From reader to published writer

Nothing motivates writing like reading something that informs and inspires. Kids have a natural desire to share these discoveries. Bringing the literacy experience full circle: encourage them to write reviews of books for other kids.

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