How to Teach Reading in the Digital Era

Reading has always been an invaluable skill. Not only does it influence how we interact with the world but it is still the medium by which many students learn. And yet, statistics show that between 46 and 51% of American adults have an income well below the poverty level because of their inability to read. This is a scary fact, and with reading becoming more digital, it is important that educators start looking into how they can teach this important skill in a new digital age.

With the explosion of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media applications, students are actually engaging more with written language than ever before.  While this should be a success of sorts, the reading they do does not always push critical reading skills or challenges its readers with new vocabulary. The National Literacy Trust found that students who engaged in social media and blogs held a more positive view on reading and writing and that they were able to read and summarize better than those that were not engaging with the language. Educators need to tap into this new reading culture.

One way this can be achieved is by the use of digital libraries. Students as young as three are being encouraged to read by using digital resources that both push reading skills as much as they do other technological literacies. Epic! is an eBook subscription service that gives readers under 12 access to 20000 books is a great place to start.  Similar products give students access to reading materials of their choosing. Educators need to understand that while curriculum set books are important, giving students the autonomy to choose books that interest them fuels a passion for reading. If students enjoy what they read, they will form a positive relationship with the content and see reading as a gateway to information.

In high school, close reading and text complexity have become the new currency by which reading programs and instruction are being measured, and if students in the digital age are to meet this requirement; they need more than digital libraries. Educators need to see the benefits that technology can bring to teaching reading and how forcing a child to sit and read a novel is archaic. Below are some examples of ways that the digital can be incorporated into teaching reading:

  • The use of online dictionaries and vocabulary lists to help learn new words.
  • Hyperlinking complex words and phrases with videos, and other explanatory resources
  • Use of e-readers and other devices made for e-books
  • Using quizzes and fun, interactive games to test vocab retention and content basics
  • Edtech that allows for live feedback into reading achievements

What all the above suggestion have in common is that they combine traditionally “book reading” with the resources and benefits that come with the internet and technology. One powerful way that educators can approach teaching reading is by using analytical tools to monitor the way in which students read. By having an understanding of students’ reading habits, speed, and comprehension, educators can gain a better understanding of where the problems lie and tailor their teaching to best suit the needs of their students.

This was previously very difficult to judge, and educators had no other assessment tools than making the student read out loud. The digital age is giving students control over their own reading while at the same time, allowing teachers to follow and jump in where needed.

So, as we move towards a digital age, teaching practices need to embrace the benefits that come with technology. Edtech is being developed to meet these challenges, and through its use, students can feel validated in their choices and can foster a passion for reading. Educators need to move away from archaic reading methods and start to incorporate the skills that students already have, with the new ones they are acquiring. After all, you need to thank a teacher if you could read this article.




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