My first professional read of the summer was Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by William Bass and Franki Sibberson. For me, this was a big “AH-HA” read…not only did I devour this book as a teacher eager to improve what I do in the classroom but I also read it through the lens of a learner myself.
So digital reading…what exactly is this? For me it is engaging in reading through some sort of device. It is about interacting with text on some sort of screen. But it is more than just text; I think of multimedia (audio, video, graphics/illustrations) as part of my reading experience as well. As a reading teacher, decoding text is important, but the construction of meaning is really what reading is all about. As Tanny McGregor (Comprehension Connections) shares, real reading happens when text and thinking merge. (I shamelessly steal her “reading salad” analogy…)
Now I still love holding a book in my hands, and in many ways prefer text on paper because it is easier on my eyes. I love writing thoughts directly on the text, underlining, highlighting, and annotating in a variety of ways. I engage with text this way. And I’ve learned that children enjoy doing this as well. Print text is often easier for me to navigate. When I want to flip back to something I read earlier, I can turn the pages and skim chapters or sections while still holding onto where I was before. I call this cross-checking. An example: I’m reading a great fiction novel and get to a point where my head goes “I didn’t see that coming!” Then I peek back and find the clues…like breadcrumbs… Print texts allow me to do all of this.
But then I think about all of the digital reading I do. Each morning I’ve developed a habit. I grab my phone and check my email, Facebook, text messages, LinkedIn, Twitter… Sometimes I check a news app. Often one or more of these lead me to a link where I navigate somewhere else and so on. Lately I’ve been purchasing e-books (mostly Kindle) because I don’t want to wait for a book to arrive or find it faster than going to the library. Digital reading offers easy and quick access to content, as well as some of the most up to date content. Navigating digital texts with hyperlinks extends the reading experience as do search tools. I turn to digital sources when I am looking for information quickly.
Yet digital reading is more than just finding text. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE audiobooks. I mean like I am addicted to them. I fall asleep each night with one on. That’s reading too as I am thinking and engaging with text…the delivery is just different. Speaking of a different delivery, what about video? I learn better when I see how to do something than figuring it out by reading directions. As the saying goes… ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Yep, I would agree.
So which is better? Neither. In my opinion, choosing a print or digital text really depends on what I am feeling at the time. Sometimes I catch myself using both concurrently. So it isn’t about picking one over the other. It is about choosing the source depending on my preferences or need at the time. I guess you could say it is about my current mood.
What does this mean for students? Well it is clear that we as teachers are preparing students for jobs or careers that may not even exist yet. Teaching students how to read print and digitally means being intentional and explicit. It also means teaching flexibility and how to think critically. We are living in a world where we can access anything we want at any time we want. Now it is time to teach kids how to be as successful as possible.
More to come as I unpack my thinking about integrating digital reading more efficiently into my classroom…