October 3, 2022

Kindles Attract Reluctant Readers at CT Elementary School

Yvonne Cech has recently turned two free Kindles into a flourishing ebook program, where her fourth-grade students at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary read everything from Treasure Island to Lincoln Peirce’s “Big Nate” series (HarperCollins).

“One of the reasons I put “Big Nate” on the Kindle is it’s more of a graphic novel format and might draw in the reluctant reader,” says Cech, a media specialist who joined the school in February. “They might read that first, but then scroll through the list and get a sampling of another story they may then read in hard cover.”

Cech now has a total of eight Kindles; the first two were free gifts that came along with a book purchase order, five came from the Box Tops For Education program, and the last was paid for with a mini grant from the parent teacher association.

Cech mostly uses free ebooks in the public domain and spices up her offerings with a few titles she knows her students will likely gravitate to quickly. She correctly assumed that once her students were drawn in—particularly her reluctant readers—they would come back for more.

“There’s a read-aloud feature for struggling readers that gives them an advantage,” Cech says. “And the added piece of the technology draws out our reluctant readers. It’s closely related to video games. You have to click to turn each page, yet it’s reading. It’s a great positive.”

Through lessons, training sessions, and tutorials that she recorded and streamed on YouTube, Cech spent weeks prepping teachers and 134 fourth grade students on how to use, support, and read on the Kindles.

Still, while her Kindle program is barely a week old, Cech has already hit a few speed bumps, like when one student realized he could erase books stored on the device. To prevent kids from adding books to the Kindles and charging the school account, Cech de-registers each device before it’s handed out.  

Students must be in good standing, without late fees or overdue titles, to check out the Kindles and can keep them for two weeks. Cech also limits the devices to fourth graders, believing that they’re the most responsible—and understand, for example, why the ebook readers have to be protected from potential spills in their backpacks.

“One mom asked her son where his water bottle was, and he said ‘Mom I got the Kindle today and couldn’t bring my water bottle home,’” says Cech laughing.

Cech is so jazzed by the results that she’s considering increasing the program for teachers to use in classroom instruction once her library of Kindles expands. For now, she’s pleased that students have the opportunity to try the ereaders, which are generating excitement about reading, while also introducing them to new, useful technology that’ll they’ll need in the future.

“A lot of traditional textbooks will be replaced with online books,” she says. “And the more we can get them exposed to this the better for them. What motivated me was I wanted them to have a comfort level with the technology when they went to the upper grades. We’re just at the beginning of this.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.


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