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Top 10 ways to use technology to promote reading

I am updating my workshop on how technology can be used to promote Voluntary Free Reading - the only undebatably fool-proof means of both improving reading proficiency and developing a life-long love of reading in every student. This list started with "The last of the book-only librarians" column from back in 2011. 

Let me be right up front about this: I am primarily sharing the good ideas of other far smarter people that I could ever pretend to be. Some primary sources for this list include:

I only steal from the best. So here we go. Johnson's Top Ten...

  1. Author and fan websites. Young readers like know more “about the author” and the Internet is rich with resources produced both by the authors themselves, their publishers, and their fans. Want to know what’s next in a favorite series? Check the author’s page or blog. Want to read more about a favorite character? Check the “fanfiction” often written by other young readers. That popular new movie jsut might be based on a novel that's in the library, so media ties-ins are powerfully motivating. Clever librarians find ways of helping students easily locate these materials by pasting printed lists of websites or QR codes in the backs of books or by adding links as a part of the electronic bibliographic record in the catalog.
  2. Sharing/social networking sites. Making reading a social activity no longer means just having a weekly book club meeting. Make sure older kids know about free websites like Shelfari, LibraryThing, and Goodreads. Biblionasium id great for younger readers. If you want a "walled-garden" program that allows sharing, ibrary automation programs like Follett’s Destiny Quest allow students to record what they’ve read, write recommendations, share their recommendations with other students and discuss books online. Figment is designed just for aspiring authors to share their own writings with others.
  3. Curation tools for student use. While not designed just for sharing reading interests like the tools above, generic curation tools like Pinterest, Tumblr, ScoopIt - along with older tools like Delicious and Diigo - allow the selection and sharing of interests among students. Student read what other students recommend and get excited about.
  4. Library/student productivity tools. Book “reports” take on a whole new look when readers are allowed to use multimedia tools to generate creative responses to books - and then share them with other students online. Using Glogster, Animoto, poster makers, digital image editors and dozens of other (usually) free tools, students can communicate through sight and sound as well as in writing. Make sure these student-created products are available for other students to see via GoogleDrive, Dropbox, YouTube, Slideshare, or other sites that make the work public - or at least viewable by others within the school.
  5. Library promotion webpages. Good library sites, of course, promote good books. But the best homepages hook readers through slideshows, videos, widgets, and podcasts - generating interest in print through media. (How about the stuff kids create themselves?)  Creative librarians do surveys and polls on book related topics using free online tools like GoogleApps Forms and SurveyMonkey. (Collect requests for new materials using an online form as well.) Does your library have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account to let kids know about new materials - and remind them of classics?
  6. Get flashy with digital displays. Screen-savers on library computers put books right in front of kids faces. So do digital picture frames sitting on the circ desk that scroll book covers. Does your school have a messaging system that runs on monitors in the hallway that could include the "read of the day"?
  7. Virtual author visits. Author visits can generate a lot interest in books and reading, but unless only local authors come to the school, such visits may not fit a library’s budget. But it is far less expensive to bring an author in virtually using Skype, Google Hangouts or othe video conferencing program. Check out the Skype an Author Network website to get some ideas.
  8. E-book libraries and e-book apps. Take advantage of those tablets, smart phones and other student-owned (or school provided) devices by making sure your e-book collection, digital magazines, and other digital resources are easy to find. Students are showing a growing preference for reading in digital formats. Even if your library does not have the budget for commercial e-materials, provide links to repositories of open source e-books like Project Gutenberg and ICDL. Link to the materials that your public library system may offer. (Ours provides access to dozens of popular magazines via Zinio to students having a public library card.)
  9. Reading self-assessment tools. While subject to no small degree of debate in the educational community, programs like Accelerated Reader can be motivating for many students. E-book libraries like MyOnReader are now including self-assessment reading ability and interest tests and means of students being able to track their own reading levels and amount read. Will being able to find books that interest a student - at a level that they can comprehend - spark reading? I think so.
  10. _________ As is the practice with lists of ten presented on the EduTech blog, #10 here has been left deliberately blank, as both an invitation for people to tell me what I have missed (or ignored), and as an acknowledgement that my own knowledge of such things is decidedly incomplete. [I totally stole this, but forgot to record the source. Mea culpa, but it's too good not to re-use. - Doug]

Here's the thing. Technology is not going away. The question we as librarians need to ask ourselves is if we want to fight a losing battle against it - or we figure out how to use these tools and resources to achieve our goal of making all students life-long readers. To me, this is a no-brainer.

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References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (8)

Readers, be sure to check out Jen's great additions on her blog. Link in References section.


February 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Just a word of warning -- some of the fan fiction out there is highly inappropriate for school.

February 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTammy Frietsch

Thanks, Tammy. Good reminder, especially for someone like me who doesn't read fan fiction.


February 12, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Totally at hand and practical

February 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHoton

Annual Book Bowl
We use the twelve (12) Maud Hart Nominees as our book list plus one book in Spanish for our annual Book Bowl in May. Students form teams and then we use the book bowl questions from the site to have a great competition.
At my school, only 5th graders can participate but we invite the entire 5th and 4th grade to watch to competition. This year I have six teams. We create a spiffy program listed all team members.
Student teams create cool team names and compete in color costumes.
We have also begun a tradition to have Book Bowl plaque with all names of winner teams.

February 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSally Mays

Hi Sally,

Sounds like a fun event. Does it have other tech components beyond the use of the webpage? (Trying to lure librarians to the dark side of the force - technology - with this post.

Happy President's Day/snow day!


February 17, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Doug, thanks for including my presentation in your list of resources!

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Ludwig

Thank YOU, Sarah. I really enjoyed and benefited from your talk at AASL this fall.

Remember, I only steal from the best ;-)


February 24, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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