E-readers in Their Bookbags (and Purses, and Gym Bags, and Lockers)

Over the past two years, I have seen more of my students carrying e-readers, so the most recent NYTimes article  “E-Readers Catch Younger Eyes and Go in Backpacks” did not surprise me.  Last year, as a sixth grade teacher, I had 1-2 students in each class who asked permission to use their e-readers during independent reading (Kindles and Nooks).  They always caused a buzz the first time they came in, with other students (and even teachers!) crowding around, oohing and ahhing.  After that, they were just another format in the classroom.

This year in high school, I started the year with about 6% of my class using e-readers (mostly Kindles).  After Christmas vacation, I had an even larger percentage using Kindles, iPads, and Nooks.  I think I am up to around 10-12% of my class using e-readers.  I do notice more of my students reading the classics offered for free download, but that could also be a result of my 40 Book Reading Challenge, which requires that they read 3 canon classics.  However, the e-readers make it easier for my students to access the classics.  And this might be crazy, but I also think my students download the classics because a lot of them lack covers or consist of solid color covers.  There is not “judging a book by its cover” because it doesn’t really have one.  Thus, they go into the book without any preconceived notions about it being boring.  Not for nothing, but so many of the classics have atrocious covers that do not attract modern teen readers.  E-readers take that out of the equation!

I am also seeing them read new books, downloading recommendations from friends and books that I booktalk in class.  They also pass the e-readers around, letting friends borrow them to read books.

I’m still a holdout.  I use my iPad to carry books on vacation, but otherwise I stick to paper copies.  I can’t put e-copies in my classroom library.  🙂  However, I am a fan of anything that gets kids reading, so keep buying your kids those e-readers!  And publishers, make your newest YA and middle grade titles available as e-books.  If you sell it, they will buy it!


5 Responses

  1. Last year, I had a couple of my 8th graders with Kindles but no one this year has brought theirs to school except for me. I think it’s partly because the parents didn’t want them bringing the e-readers to school, since they’re still over $100, and partly because I teach in a poorer area, where books are scarce (much less e-readers!).

    But I’m with you–however they want to read is fine with me, as long as they read! I encourage them, if they don’t have a book, to read one of the freebies online from the Gutenburg Project (I think I’m spelling that wrong…oops). So, YA/MG pubs, bring on the e-books!

    The Book Swarm

  2. What about the socio-economic discrepancies in the classroom? Not every student can afford to have an e-reader. It can be an in your face example of the have/have nots for some kids. I’m sure some of the kids who are oohing and ahhing, could never afford such a piece of technology, or have parents who are not as permissive.

    How do teachers handle having such an expensive piece of technology in school in terms of risk of theft or loss?

    Finally, e-readers have internet capability. Have teachers struggled with monitoring appropriate use of e-readers?

    In addition to those issues, I feel like my students have more than enough, if not too much, opportunity to interface with technology and there is something to be said for the old-fashioned experience of a book in hand.

    • Kate-

      I haven’t run into any issues with the socio-economic discrepancies, yet. The kids are usually enamored with the devices at first, but the reactions don’t seem any different than when some kids have the newest sneakers or the cutest ($$) purse/backpack. I’m sure that some of the kids are jealous, but it’s hasn’t caused an issue for me at this point. That might be due to the age of my students, though. As far as permissive parents- well, that’s not something I feel the urge to deal with. Some kids are allowed to watch TV, others are not. Does that mean no one can make comparisons to TV/movies in class discussion? Of course not. Everyone lives by different rules at home, so we acknowledge and move on.

      As far as the risk of having an expensive item in school, it’s been dealt with on a personal level in both of my positions. The school grants permission with the understanding that it’s the student’s responsibility to care for it. Honestly, some of my students have cell phones in school on daily basis that cost more than a Kindle/Nook!

      I do agree that students have a lot of time to interface with technology. I prefer paper books myself. However, I do think e-readers are becoming more prevalent. I won’t be the person to stop a student from reading, as long as it is a novel or nonfiction book. (We don’t do magazines in class). Those with e-readers sacrifice the ability to read books from my classroom library on their device.

  3. Hello. I too am seeing a surge in e-readers in my seventh grade language arts class this year. I am very excited to see this, and happy that my students are adopting the technology. When you look at the costs beyond the initial outlay for the reader, the books are much cheaper than “real” books. I’ve always loved reading, but I can see that this means a lot to the kids, and I’m impressed that they bring the readers with them to class. They are very light and compact, compared with all the binders and textbooks they lug around.
    As the teacher, I have decided to get on of these devices myself. I want to be able to research what’s coming out quickly, and I usually spend my summer reading the new books for kids while I travel or visit people. I look forward to the convenience.

  4. I don’t know of any publishing company who isn’t offering YA e-books anymore. And don’t knock an exclusively e-book off your list, there are a lot of publishers who only publish e-books — and are good!

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