Most English teachers and librarians believe in the adage: “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.” –Frank Serafini. However, I would like to add on to this theory with: If someone doesn’t like to read, they haven’t found the right book OR the right medium yet. There is some compelling independent reading research on why you should start promoting all three book mediums: physical, audiobooks, and eBooks during First Chapter Fridays or free school reading time.
Independent Reading Research Benefits:
While I go into more detail about all the benefits of incorporating independent reading into your curriculum in this general post, I want to specifically highlight the benefits of promoting different types of book mediums (physical, audiobooks, and eBooks) as free choice reading.
On a personal level, I’ll tell you a quick story about my husband’s book club. It’s an eclectic group of men composed of a mix of avid readers and some who hadn’t read a book since forced to in high school. That is, until they discovered the joy of audiobooks. This book club has been going strong for six years now and audiobooks have undeniably opened up a whole new world for the members. Without audiobooks, many of these men would still “hate” to read. Without audiobooks, many of these members would still have a big ZERO on their adult independent reading log. Without audiobooks, the joy of reading for fun may have been lost forever.
As an ELA teacher or librarian, YOU can be the person who opens up this literacy world for your students. Maybe they do love to read, just not with a physical book in their hands.
By showcasing and validating a variety of book mediums, you can:
Help students find their preference
Research: Did you know that studies have shown no form book is any better than another? Essentially, it comes down to preference. When you introduce students to different versions of books, you help them find their perfect match– in more ways than one!
Real World: If you are doing First Chapter Fridays or any other type of independent reading promotions, be sure to showcase different mediums. This could look like playing an audiobook sample instead of reading it aloud yourself. To keep students focused while listening, try these independent reading coloring pages. Or, you could do a read aloud from your Kindle and show off helpful features like a built-in dictionary or adaptive features like dyslexic friendly fonts.
Give students more access to books
Research: Having access to books is essential to building a strong literacy foundation. But you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars building a classroom library. In fact, this school study shows that putting your efforts into helping students access digital libraries could be a lot more effective. Anecdotal evidence in the study suggests that students enjoy having portable forms of books that they can access on their phones or devices anytime, anywhere.
Real World: Set aside some time to ensure all students know how to access digital libraries like Libby, Sora, or Hoopla. All of these services require library cards, so be sure to get your local and school librarians involved in helping students obtain library access. The setup process can sometimes be frustrating or seem like a hassle, but it is totally worth it!
Teach students the difference between mediums
Anecdotal Research: There are pros and cons to different versions of the same book and I would argue that a great life skill is knowing how to select the version you need for different reading tasks. For example, when I was researching for our book Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning, I would often buy an audio version AND an eBook version. I would listen to the books then use the eBook version to quickly search for the sections I wanted to cite. This reminded me of my college days when I would cram (hack?) reading assignments by listening to an audiobook CD (showing my age) during my hour commute. In both these examples, there is no way I would have met deadlines without having access to a variety of book mediums.
In another (more fun) example, eBooks and audiobooks are also great for trips where you want to pack book options but luggage space is a factor. I’ll allow myself to pack one physical book, but I know that I have an entire library at my fingertips!
Real World: Consider using these graphics to start a conversation about the pros and cons of physical, audio, and eBooks. Ask students to brainstorm when they would prefer using one version over another. You can grab an editable version here: Pros and Cons Slide Show
I hope this post has given you the independent reading research and inspiration you need to start promoting a variety of book formats within your free choice reading program. If you would like more information on getting started, keep reading here: How to Incorporate Free-choice Reading with Middle and High School Students