A recent post by Jennifer Serravallo, educator and author of such works as The Reading Strategies Book, shares some insights and tips into how to foster independent reading in classrooms, and unleash children’s own curiosity and eagerness to read more widely. As Serravallo says, this can have a lifelong impact. “Countless studies … have shown time and time again that students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not.” And some of her techniques at least could be adapted for ereading as well.
One technique where ereading really could make a difference is quantity of books. Serravallo believes that numbers matter. “I try to encourage schools to invest in gathering about 1,000 books per classroom library at a minimum. That will be enough to sustain a year’s worth of independent reading for a class of 25 kids.” Obviously, that’s a lot of books, and may be outside the budget of some schools. But some classroom Kindles or Chromebooks loaded up with libraries of ebooks, especially copyright-free ones? I could see that working.
Serravallo also believes in coaching children’s reading endurance skills. “Stamina is something that can be taught and it needs to be practiced. For example, you may offer students strategies for setting shorter-term goals for themselves.” That could be achievable with ebooks just as well as physical books. She also believes in “fostering joy” for kids, and cleaning out daily teaching schedules to make room for it. Sorting books by both subject and difficulty level is also something she recommends – “consider arranging your library in bins by interest topics … and put the book’s level somewhere on the book” – which could easily be done in virtual libraries as well. Ditto talking while reading: “Tap into this natural need for readers to share the funny parts, the shocking parts, and the heart-wrenching parts.” And finally, she recommends non-invasive methods to check readers’ progress and develop their skills without breaking in on their precious independent reading time.
Some may believe that the best approach of all in fostering reading skills is to keep children focused on physical books and avoid pushing ebooks at them in the first place. For classrooms that have the resources to do that, I have no qualms whatsoever with that approach. Literacy comes way before any faction fighting between pro and anti ebook camps. However, if the resources are there, why not learn how to use them? (And here’s a few tips to do just that.) I don’t think Serravallo would disagree.