One of the most interesting questions I have been asked recently is whether I believe that ebooks are a help or a hindrance to early literacy.
With the rapid adoption of iPads in schools, it is a topical question and one that both teachers and parents are currently grappling with. As an author-educator and Reading Ambassador, my perspective is driven by the WHY then the HOW followed by WHERE and WHEN?
WHY do we want students to read? To understand the world around them better. Get facts. Tolerate those who are different. Have fun. But also to give students skills which increase confidence.
HOW to read? We know that people absorb information in different ways and the same applies to reading. So the HOW really is about any format which suits that student. It could be verbal, visual, aural or even tactile. Which then brings me to the WHERE and WHEN. Simply, Anywhere and Anytime.
So if an electronic device fosters reading by addressing the why, how, where and when, I am all for it. This is my personal challenge (as a digital dinosaur!) to be openly learning to adapt, in public. I need to understand how new technology is rapidly introducing innovative ways in which stories can be told.
Though my visits to schools and libraries, I have already seen three significant advantages of ereading for literacy.
1. EReading can be social
Showing normal sized picture books to big groups can be challenging. It is difficult to ensure all students can see the detail. Using a smart/white/board with an iPad enables reading sound effects together with funny voices. Even in big groups, we can discuss techniques, look at detail and read together in more than one language. It's sociable.
2. Apps add value
Picture book apps can bring stories to life by including hyperlinks to other relevant content and attract new readers to engage. One of my picture books, Feymouse, has just been reinterpreted through an app and the additional digital functions have widened its appeal across age groups and literacy levels. (Take a sneak peek at Feymouse – the story of a large and clumsy cat born into a family of talented mice, here.)
3. EReaders offer new literacy pathways
For those students who are not independent readers and need visual clues, ereaders provide new pathways to literacy by encouraging voluntary secret reading. Slower readers can read small, easier stories, secretly, often using visual clues. Status is not based on how thick nor how many pages. Even competent, fast readers only scroll a page at a time.
So as I adapt and learn, I keep an open mind. Stories can take you into other worlds, but sometimes the WAY they do that changes.
Learn more about Hazel's books and literary ways at www.hazeledwards.com