How do we get kids of the digital age to read and write? As the proud holder of a degree in English, wide-eyed in my freshly graduated optimism, the thing that most irks me about this rapidly changing world is the fact that no one seems to want to read anymore.
It seems to me that kids would rather surf YouTube than crack a novel; students would rather illegally download an ebook than buy a textbook. In this new digital age, every kid is equipped with a laptop and a SmartPhone and a tablet, and I have to admit that I get frustrated when I see them using these technologies to circumvent good old fashioned reading.
Well, current wisdom says that if you can’t beat them (and I with my dingy old books can’t), join them. Getting kids to favor books over apps is pretty much universally admitted as a lost cause…but why not use apps to get them to start reading in the first place? Here are some examples parents and teachers might use to get started.
1. Remember Hooked on Phonics? Well, we have more advanced technologies now, but the basic philosophy of many popular apps is the same: Build young children’s reading comprehension abilities, and even more, plant an affinity for reading as they grow. Using apps like ReadingMagic and Pat the Bunny, young readers will learn skills from sounding out words to matching text and picture.
2. With handy apps, computers and tablets and ereaders can become the new books on tape: For kids who don’t want to or can’t sit and read to themselves for whatever reason, text-to-voice apps like NewsBrain and One For All All For One will read to them. They’re available through Google, Apple, and even plenty of independent news retailers. Even better, a lot of them are free. That’s, well, less expensive than most popular audiobooks.
3. The same theory works in reverse with voice-to-text apps users can talk to, like and Dragon Dictation. For reluctant writers who have trouble translating their thoughts to words on the page, this app breaks down the writing and brainstorming process and breaks down boundaries between spoken and written words.
4. The proverbial “writer’s block” is just as much of an issue on tablets as papers. Luckily for new writers, apps like Silly Story Starters generate writing prompts in the blink of an eye. Take this a step further with an app like Story Builder or Story Patch, which help kids plan, write, and even illustrate stories of various lengths. Because words in this age aren’t tethered to the forms we consider “typical” anymore, consider apps that let you use audio and visual inserts, like Story Creator, or apps for comic books and graphic novels as well, such as Comic Life.
5. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have a full backpack bursting with old journals, stuffed into the back of my childhood closet. While kids these days may turn up their noses at writing in a diary every day, you might have better luck getting them to download an app like iDiary or Capture 365, which can help to put everything from planners to creative outlet for thoughts and feelings right at kids’ hands. Many of them are built on the idea that every individual’s life is a story of its own. I bet that logic could get even the most reluctant kid writing.
And if you’re still intent on getting kids (of any age) to pick up a real-live paper-and-ink book, try these tips (some more facetious than others):
-Track progress using apps like ReadingLog and Reading Tracker, and earn rewards after reading a certain length. (Scholastic makes a bunch of reading timers, too, to train yourself to read faster.) And, sure, the reward could be something like time on the internet.
-Make catchy headlines out of classic novel plots to grab kids’ attention, a hilarious suggestion that probably actually works by themillions.com:
- Before they hate and rebel against parents and teachers, kids tend to be fascinated by what the same mentors were like at their ages. So if you mention that a certain classic book was a favorite of yours as a kid, you’re more likely to get your target to pick it up.
I may be just an English major, and not the most hip one…but I’m more than willing to admit that the growing world of technology can be used for good, even when married with (admittedly old-school) passions like the one I have for books. Like I said, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.