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Personal Libraries and the use of Digital technology

Hi everyone

I hope your new school year has got off to a flying start and that you are getting to know your students well. Our topic today explores the use of digital online books for teaching reading and to develop a personal library for your students reading enjoyment.

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Personal Libraries and the use of Digital technology

Today I want to share an interesting article with you all by Todd Brekhus printed in Language Magazine titled Making Reading Your Own. Todd begins by stating, “Making literacy more personal to kids, especially to second-language learners, begins with providing learners with their own personal libraries.”

Personally I think the start of the school year is a good time to think about this topic as we are thinking about our programmes and we continually look to new ideas and ways to improve what we are currently doing. New Zealand teachers have traditionally been strong on teaching reading and we know the importance of independent reading and reading aloud to the class. With a crowded curriculum however sometimes these are not included in our programme as frequently as we would like them to be.

For new learners of English it is important that they gain exposure to the sounds of English through hearing native speakers, reading aloud. “Without a strong connection to oral reading and the oral tradition of the English language, it’s difficult for a student to connect with reading and even more difficult to master the ability to read fluently.” It also helps them to build their knowledge of vocabulary. 

ELLs also need to develop personal “reading mileage” and this becomes urgent if they are to access the curriculum at an age-appropriate level.

Todd in the article builds a case for enabling the use of digital audio online books with all students but particularly for ELLs.  “The student can hear the book read aloud and then can read the book over and over again. In many cases, learners can even hear books written in their native languages.”

Todd concludes with the following benefits:

  • Find great reading content — If teachers can provide every one of their students 500 or more books at their levels, books that students are interested in, they are off to a great start. This is where technology is key. A library of digital books can help teachers customize reading lists for every student in the class, or for reading groups. But the content has to be vast, diverse, and personal for the students to grab their attention and interest.
  • Audio with text — Ideally, if every one of those books could have human-recorded audio with text highlighting to go along with that audio, that is powerful.
  • Let students monitor their growth — All kids want to improve, especially second-language learners, and they need to see if they are getting better so they can continue to self-grow. Providing students with tools to monitor and measure their own growth while they’re reading will allow everyone to see their improvement.
  • Collaboration — Being able to collaborate with classmates and peers and being able to share and connect through a book is a motivator for students and a great way to personalize literacy by using technology.
  • Embrace what technology can bring to reading instruction — Technology-based reading systems with extensive digital libraries and supportive tools can be a great companion for a librarian or a teacher’s personal librarian. If teachers, librarians, and other staff embrace these systems and what they can offer, there’s no limit to how they can use them to help students excel.

I would also argue that if the students can access the books digitally from home in their own time, as well as at school then potentially the learning can be more accelerated.

This is not a new idea but are we embracing the opportunity that the latest technology has provided us with? As there is a lot to be gained.

Here are a few questions to reflect upon:

  1. Do my ELLS have access to digital books with audio sound in my classroom? In other areas of the school? And from home?
  2. What are the barriers to enabling this from happening? How can they be overcome?
  3. Do I enable students to collaborate over books they have read?
  4. Do I provide digital tools to ease ELLs into reading?
  5. If I am already using digital stories do the sites I am using offer a range of stories and do they cover the interests of my students?  How will I find this out? (Maybe a reading survey will be needed.) Do they access it outside of my classroom? How can I make reading more motivating?

I know that there can be many barriers and that many ELLs do not have access to computers at home. However libraries do and there is the Computer in Homes programme available in low decile schools across 19 regions and also to refugee families.

Many of you will already be using digital books/stories and it would be great if you could share the sites that you find most useful and engaging and your experience on how you use them. Some classroom organisational tips would be very helpful to teachers who want to give it a go.

One site which I think I have shared before is Unite for Literacy, which has free digital books being read aloud by guest readers, complete with text and images.    

Just send your email to primaryesol@lists.tki.org.nz. Or comment below. 


Kind regards