Teens and young adults have a dizzying array of entertainment choices these days: streaming, gaming, YouTube, social networking, etc. It's no wonder that traditional books are a tough sell to potential next-generation readers. It's a shame. Hey, I love a great film or TV show... but novels provide a depth and richness of experience that visual media simply can't match. Novels immerse us in worlds more vivid, more visceral than can be achieved in a few hours of action projected on a screen. A great book allows every reader to become the director of their own internal blockbuster... and our imaginations put even the most masterful filmmakers to shame. Why? Because we have a chance to personalize the story. We're not just watching it unfold; we're shaping it in our mind's eye.
So how do we share the joy of reading with today's young people? How do we compete with all of the media voices clamoring for their attention? It's a question that plagues many writers and publishers today. Luckily, some creative teachers are exploring innovative ways to speak to teens and young adults through platforms that resonate with them. The Kindle Classroom Project is one of those "educational experiments" that just might transform reading from a chore into a pleasure for the most skeptical next-gen audiences.
KCP is the brainchild of teacher turned instructional coach Mark Isero. Frustrated with pushback from students who viewed reading as pure drudgery, he shared his Kindle (augmented with text-to-speech) with one student who just couldn't plow through a paperback. That young man became so excited about "e-reading" on a Kindle that he begged Isero to borrow the device for the weekend. Inspired by that reaction, Isero expanded his "digital classroom library" to almost a thousand Kindle titles and a like number of students. If a young person wants to read a book not already in the KCP "e-lbrary," KCP buys it, adds it, and allows the original requester to immediately check it out. The library grows, driven by student demand. Kids get to read what appeals to them. The resistance to "forced assignments" turns into excitement over being empowered to choose their own reading material and consume it in a way that feels more natural. Win-win!
As a writer (and avid reader) of eBooks, I applaud KCP's "outside the box" approach to delivering a digital feast of fiction (and non-fiction) instead of force-feeding physical books that leave a bad taste in many next-gen readers' mouths. I admit, there are times when I still crave the sensation of an old-fashioned book in my hands: the feel of pages turning beneath my fingers, the intoxicating aroma of ink and paper. But I understand that young people have grown up in a connected world where mobile devices and hi-res screens provide that same kind of comfort. I appreciate that. I, too, love having a complete set of cyber-shelves in my pocket, checking out books from the regional digital library and downloading anywhere at any time.
To each his own. Whatever brings the joy of reading to the next generation is a blessing. Here's to KCP and its ground-breaking sponsors in the educational community. I hope their creativity -- and their success -- goes viral!
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