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Could Kindle E-readers Kindle Better Reading Skills?


Many kids would rather spend time in front of a computer or video screen than sitting with a book, so a Kansas State University assistant professor has brought the two together in a modified way to kindle excitement about reading. Lotta Larson paired up the Amazon Kindle with two second-grade students and is already seeing better reading skills.

There has been a decline in reading skills in the United States over the past few decades. According to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) study (2007) entitled “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence,” less than one-third of 13-year-olds read daily, a 14 percent decline from 20 years ago. On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend only seven minutes of their daily leisure time reading.

Americans are also reading less well, according to the NEA. Reading scores for 12-grade readers declined significantly from 1992 to 2005, with the largest decline among lower-level readers. Among adults, reading scores at nearly all education levels have deteriorated. None of these statistics can hope to improve if educators and parents do not encourage and promote reading skills in the youngest of readers.

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The e-reader Lotta Larson uses with her students has the ability to make text audible, change font size, and allow readers to make comments about what they are reading. The notes that students make can be very revealing, says Larson. “It’s like having a glimpse into their brains as they’re reading,” and it allows teachers to know if students understand what they are reading.

Tests have already indicated an improvement in the students’ perceptions of their ability to read, and Larson notes that now quantitative data needs to be collected to determine the impact of this approach on reading scores. She is also introducing e-readers to students who have special needs, and is taking on another challenging audience: young teen boys, who are much more attuned to high tech than paper books.

Providing students with an opportunity to access books through e-readers will allow them to interact with their reading experience in new ways. Larson believes that gadgets like the Kindle and other e-readers may be the spark today’s reluctant young readers need. Parents who are looking for more ideas on how to trigger their children’s interest in reading may find the Reading is Fundamental organization’s website of interest.

Kansas State University news release, April 16, 2010
National Endowment for the Arts
Reading is Fundamental