Teachers and parents complain that students (of all ages) don’t read anymore. While there is some truth that we acquire most of our habits by imitating those around us during childhood, we should also know that our habits may change throughout our life. In other words, it’s possible to ditch bad habits and to form good ones.
As it is with anything else, reading is a habit. You get into the habit of reading a little bit every day if you see that the people around you are doing this daily. In a house where the TV is always on, you are very unlikely to become an avid reader. That is, unless you have other people in your life who can show you the benefits of reading: friends, teachers, grandparents, etc.
A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences has revealed that the situation is quite gloomy. Americans spend an average of 17 minutes per day reading for personal interest; in 2003, the average reading time was 22 minutes. On the other hand, they spend almost three hours watching TV and almost half an hour playing games and using their computer for leisure.
The situation is worse for young Americans (ages 15 to 44), as they spend, on average, less than 10 minutes per day reading for personal interests. Less than 53% of American adults read at least one book for pleasure in 2019.
4 Awesome edtech solutions for making students fall in love with reading
Technology might come in handy in this case. Contrary to conventional wisdom, technology is a friend, not a foe of books and reading. Let’s see a few apps that can help students of various ages fall in love with reading:
This is an app especially designed for kids of 12 and under. It gives unlimited access to a great library of well-written, humorous, and engaging stories that will captivate young readers. Authors threw in some gamification, as readers receive badges and rewards as they carry on with their reading. It’s free for teachers and librarians. Other users have to pay $7.99 per month. But it’s worth it! Give it a try, and use the free 30 day period.
Not TikTok, the latest craze among social network users during confinement, but TikaTok. It is a digital publishing studio that allows kids to write and illustrate their own books in the classroom. Kids can create digital or printed books with TikaTok. What better way to make students read more than allowing them to write stories? When they make their own books, they become more curious and more creative, and they begin to understand better the importance of reading. On TikaTok, kids can also read books written by their colleagues or by their teachers.
Granted, it’s not a reading app, as it is used for audiobooks, but it might be a good solution for students to listen to great literary masterpieces. Remember that we began by listening to the stories our parents and grandparents used to read us before bedtime. Why not give it a try with students of all ages that don’t have the patience to read? Perhaps they still prefer listening to stories. It’s like shooting two birds with one stone. Students can, at the same time, familiarize themselves with the works of great writers and become good listeners — a skill that will come in handy in their personal and professional life.
This is a social e-reader essentially designed for college students. Instead of gamification as a motivator, commonly used in many reading apps, Perusall went the other way, making reading a social experience. Students can annotate documents or books, comment and respond to comments. It’s a little bit like an online literature seminar, in which students and teachers comment on paragraphs, share their ideas, and exchange notes. Give it a try, especially if you want to motivate college students to go through their reading assignments.
To sum up
Don’t give up! There are many ways in which students can get into the habit of reading. Some students might feel stimulated by rewards and badges, others might enjoy writing and illustrating their own book and discover the wonderful world of books. Some might prefer listening, while for others reading might be a more enjoyable experience if it involves social interaction with colleagues and teachers. Find the right approach and help them create a good habit: the habit of reading (if possible) more than 17 minutes per day.
Veronica is a University lecturer with years of experience in language learning, a translator and interpreter, and a life-long learner.