Children are introduced to the digital world at younger and younger ages it seems, from the toddler given mum’s phone to play with to the seemingly endless demands for Peppa Pig videos on YouTube, parents are well aware of their offspring’s fascination for screens. When they come to school therefore, they are already digitally confident, and their willingness to ‘have a go’ makes them more natural users than us risk adverse adults. Personally, I share their fascination for screens but the thing that prevents me getting square eyes is my own great love of reading - luckily the release of the next novel in a well-loved series can easily detach me from my mobile. How can we encourage young people to love books and words in the same way, if they never lift their heads from their devices? I’ve always enjoyed using digital media as a hook to draw them in to the oceans of good reading that exists for their enjoyment, hopefully you will find some of these ideas work for you.
The bookworms in your class or library are your greatest tool to help engage others, peer recommendation is so powerful which is why I have always encouraged children to write book reviews. This can be like pulling teeth however, they don’t seem to enjoy sitting down and composing a review. An alternative could be to ask them to create a wordcloud with 10 - 20 words that describe the book and their enjoyment of it, in a shape that is relevant to the story. These wordclouds can then be printed out and affixed to the inside front cover of the book to encourage others to read it. There are many word cloud sites or apps you could use for this but I think Wordart is my favourite for ease of use.
Another way to get good peer recommendations is to video the children talking about the book they have read, save the videos safely online (as an unlisted video on a school YouTube account for example) then attach the url to a qr code (using https://www.qrstuff.com or similar) and stick the code on the back of the book. When you hold a smartphone/tablet camera over the code it will take you directly to the video review. In a similar way you could use a qr code that leads you to the author’s website, this can be really engaging especially if the website is as well thought out as Jacqueline Wilson’s (https://www.jacquelinewilson.co.uk).
Films have always been promoted by the release of a teaser trailer before they open and many publishers and authors have now realised how good a practice this is for building anticipation, especially given most youngsters love of watching videos. Many publishers now create book trailers, short snatches of video about the book, that are released before the book is published and showing these can encourage students to want to read the books and can also help break them out of their genre/series boundaries… "I only want to read Beast Quest Miss!". There are numerous trailers on YouTube as well as great channels you can follow, Michael Rosen’s for example https://www.youtube.com/user/artificedesign. There’s a good example of a trailer for older kids here: the trailer for Tom and Giovanna Fletcher’s dystopian novel Eve of Man. The World Book Day site is another useful source of trailers, you’re sure to find one to get your reluctant readers excited there. Your students could write the script for and produce their own book trailers to show at school perhaps using www.animoto.com or www.powtoon.com
Static book displays could become much more exciting if you add a recordable sound button with a reading from the book - these can be re recorded to highlight different titles. Do you have a digital photo frame at home gathering dust? I did have when I was a school librarian so I repurposed it for use in the library. I had a rolling display of the covers of new books I had purchased on it, sometimes I had a themed display, scary books for Halloween for example, and I was pleasantly shocked at the positive effect this little screen had on loans!
Instagram is incredibly popular and its immediate impact visuals are a perfect vehicle for sharing book recommendations, new books etc. A class or library account can be used to publish one sentence reviews from children, you could share shelfies or even set an Instagram challenge over a half term with a different genre of books to read each week (with the proviso that if the book is in the week’s genre and the child finished it that week a picture of the cover and a comment will be posted on Instagram). Have a look @glenthorne_library for more fab ideas from librarian Lucas Maxwell.
Digital media needn’t be the reason children don’t read as much, with clever use it can be a motivator for them to get immersed in a good story - after all there’s no greater pleasure than being transported to another world via an author’s words and your imagination, in my opinion anyway!
About the Author
Bev Humphrey is now a literacy and technology consultant after spending 10 years as a school librarian. She was given a Reading Hero Award by the Literacy Trust at the end of the National Year of Reading for her work during this year and her international collaborative writing project, the Write Path was shortlisted for a Times Educational Supplement New Literacy Initiative Award in 2009 and has twice been shortlisted for a Lemos and Crane Literacy Award. Bev has also worked with the Schools Network as a Lead Practitioner for Literacy. Bev is the editor of SLA Digital, the technology section of the School Library Association's regular quarterly magazine, she is the Website Content Manager for the SLA website and is Web Editor for CILIP School Libraries group. She describes herself quite happily as a ‘geeky reader’ and is happiest when combining her twin passions for books and technology.