e-Encouraging to e-Read

The 30 Goals Challenge World Tour has landed to Spain and I'm ready to accomplish the proposed goal. The inspire leader for this part of journey is MJ Gsm. She's come up with a real challenge and I will do my best to accomplish the mission.

I'll start off with a confession that I've always loved reading. Call me old-fashioned but when you say 'book', the first thing that springs to mind is a paper book. I love the intoxicating smell of a new book (or an antique one). I love going to libraries where I can touch the covers and flip through the pages. When everything is peaceful and quiet at home, I take a book and relax. Having my PC or any electrical device switched on means that I'm still working, but holding a book in my hands means the time to relax has come. I honestly admit that I've never read an e-novel, although I've downloaded a few. I've read a couple of short stories online but that's it as far as fiction is concerned. This makes me doubt that I'm a suitable person for accomplishing this goal.

But I do consider myself an e-reader because I spend a lot of time e-reading. When I was an undergraduate student (actually just a couple of months ago), I hardly ever touched a hard copy of a book; I was a combined-studies student, which meant I needed a much more flexible approach to reading. Most of the study materials I had to read were pdf files and on-line sources. However I had a habit of printing out the most important ones and keeping them for later use in folders. Now, I voluntarily spend hours reading various blog posts and articles in cyberspace, which are a source of new knowledge and experience for me, as well as a great source of pleasure.

Enough of my own experience. What I have observed is that students don't read a lot nowadays. There are a few exceptions but generally, most students face difficulties when encountering a longer stretch of text. I'm not surprised; in the age of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter they are not accustomed to longer texts. And I have the feeling that it's becoming more and more difficult for them to focus their attention on the written word. That's why this challenge is so important. We need to think of ways of encouraging our students to read. I'd say that combining e-devices with traditional approaches is a good way to do so because kids are so-called digital natives after all; cyberspace is apparently the place that feels like home for them. But we can't make someone e-read if they are not used to reading at all.

The best way to incite students' interest in reading may be introducing them to stories accompanied by the spoken word and/or images, such as this lovely story I found on YouTube called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMlU7wVj_PY. Actually, I had first come across this moving story here in a wonderful blog post created by Chrysa Papalazarou (thank you, Roseli Serra, for sharing it on Facebook).

This is the pdf file to download http://continuumexpedition.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/the-giving-tree.pdf.

As the file has only two pages, it is manageable and easy to concentrate on. The written version can be given to students after they have listened and watched the story. Later, with a different story, the transcript can be given to them in advance. Thus they can prepare for the listening which they can enjoy more if they know what the story is about.

With more advanced classes, you can watch a popular movie in the lesson, for example the Great Gatsby, but only with English subtitles, that's why you recommend that your students read the simplified version of the original novel first (this is manageable within a couple of days).

Here's another tip on improving students' e-reading skills (and listening skills as well), which they can easily practise at home. The following web page uses the method of graded reading. It offers its readers news in three levels. Each text is accompanied with a recording. The lower the level, the shorter the text and the easier (or rather more frequent) the vocabulary. On the other hand, the higher the level, the faster the recording.

My contention is that students will love e-reading and reading in general but their missions need attractive wrapping. They also need to enter familiar territory to feel safe and willing to take the challenge. This territory is somewhere where the material world and cyberspace meet.