Increasingly, many school referenda are based on the need to buy iPads or other tech devices for students. These devices, it is implied, will diminish achievement gaps and bring learning to new heights.
However, research has shown such “needs” to be misguided, particularly as “there is little solid evidence that greater computer use among students leads to better scores in mathematics and reading.” And as reading expert Nancie Atwell recently noted in The Washington Post, the tactic most likely to set students on the path to success is the good old-fashioned technology of a book.
“As reading researcher Richard Allington put it, ‘If I were working in a high-poverty school and had to choose between spending $15,000 each year on more books for classrooms and libraries, or on one more [teaching assistant], I would opt for the books … Children from lower-income homes especially need rich and extensive collections of books in their school …’
And they need actual books, not electronic devices that store books. Real books don’t require electricity or batteries. They survive rapid changes in technology and digital storage. While my students did experiment with e-readers and Kindles, all of them reverted to paper books. They said they missed the sense of geography they enjoy with a real book, where they're aware of how many pages the author has left to resolve the plot, and when they can flip back with ease to clear up a confusion."
According to Atwell, reverting to real books enables children to retain more information, enjoy increased comprehension, have a better social life, and even get better rest at night. In the long run, it seems stories and lessons from e-readers and textbooks just can’t measure up.
Have you experienced the trend away from real books in your child’s classroom? In general, do classrooms everywhere need to challenge students with more and better quality books?
Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.