Thursday, November 09, 2017

Can Reading Be Embraced Again?

by Selina Johnson, Wylam Branch Library

Parents learning the importance of family reading time at 1-2-3 Play with Me
at the North Birmingham Regional Branch Library

A new school year is well underway for students. So, the fight to get them focused on all that is school has begun. Summer allowed students the freedom to more than likely use their tech gadgets until their heart’s content. Now, parents and teachers will have to be the “bad guy” and put forth steps that will temper the desire for students to use these devices so frequently. Most students do not have an inkling of what it was like before smartphones, video games, social media, texting, and the many other tech formats that engross their lives now. As a student, I was just on the cusp of technology integration. This was when items such as cell phones were simply used to talk. Now, it is amazing that you can video chat, discover the exact location of places, and have an app for almost anything you can imagine to assist with the tasks of your daily life.

Smartphones, games, computers, apps, etc. have really spoiled all of us. They are created to make users feel that they cannot live without them. The impact that technology has on students is real. Students now desire instant gratification and that is exactly how many of the games and apps that they use are designed. One of the residual effects of all of the technology is that students have low attention spans. This leads me to think about the steady decline in students reading for pleasure. Technology is entertaining and satisfies immediately but reading is a commitment. Reading a book is a commitment that may take hours to days to complete. Many students simply would rather spend their time doing something other than reading for the pleasure of it.

Children acting out Jack and the Beanstalk at the Avondale Regional
Library's Wondertellers program
Visualization is when the words and the ideas on the page trigger mental images that relate to what is being read in some way. These images are like movies in their heads, and this increases their understanding of what is being read. Students of the tech generation may have a harder time with creating mental images on their own because current technology has numbed that skill for many of them. Images are being created for them through graphics, sound, design, etc. They are receiving instant stimulation through YouTube, Facebook, texting, and so many other formats. Reading for pleasure is simply not a high priority for most students because it takes more effort in comparison to what technology has to offer.

Visualization is a very important reading skill that is needed in order for deep reading to occur. How can this skill be strengthened? There is not a quick fix for this; however, introducing students to a variety of books that assist in strengthening their ability to create mental images as they read is a start. Embracing reading and taking time for deep reading is a goal that parents and teachers should set with students. It is not unreasonable for students, depending on their age, to become acclimated to the habit of reading for 30 minutes to an hour a day sans technology. Below you will find a list of books which use a mixture of sensory elements that encourage readers to visualize as they read.

Picture Books
We lose ourselves in books. We find ourselves there too. — Anonymous
Caught reading at the Five Points West Regional Branch Library
Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan
Puddles by Jonathan London
I’m in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor
Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia McKissack
Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant
The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer
See the Ocean by Estelle Condra
Bedhead by Margie Palatini
A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon

Chapter Books (listed from easy to difficult)
Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel
Cam Jansen series by David Adler
Amelia Bedelia series by Herman Parrish
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Search the JCLC catalog for these books and more.

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