An Electronic Book for Every Child: 6 Reasons to Turn Onto E-books

"War & Peace is so much more manageable with a larger font size."
“War & Peace is so much more manageable with a larger font size.”

I was reading David WalliamsAwful Auntie on a tablet to my daughter one night last week. The book has illustrations by Tony Ross and my daughter wanted to look at them, so I lay on the bed and held the tablet aloft so I could read and she could look at the pictures.

The teacher in me thought: If I enlarge the text then she can follow the text as I read. Hey presto, impromptu learning opportunity!

As I read, with the text enlarged, it occurred to me that the book now looked as if it were aimed at a younger audience. POW-style brainwave! Changing the text size makes the book more accessible for a younger reader!

Once I’d finished reading a chapter, I popped Awful Auntie onto my daughter’s Kindle and enlarged the text size. She’s seven years old and now happily wading her way through the novel.

Now if I could only give every child in the world an electronic book! The benefits are manifold:

1) Changing the text size makes the book appear more accessible.

2) Because the child only sees the size of the e-reader, they aren’t put off by longer texts (they don’t know how long the book is!).

3) As a teacher you can share the book on an interactive whiteboard with a PC version of the e-reader software, making highlights and checking the inbuilt dictionary as you read.

4) Theoretically, you should be able to monitor your students’ reading: how many books read? Which page are they on? What notes have they made?

5) Technology, for many students has an inherently cool quality. The student thinks they are playing with a device when in fact they are acquiring a reading habit.

6) The economics of e-publishing is much more favourable now. Ebooks are typically around 30-40% cheaper than printed books; they don’t deteriorate and don’t take up any physical storage space.

I now recommend e-readers to parents. In fact, I would actively discourage parents from buying tablets or colour-screen, multifunctional e-readers (like the Kindle Fire or the Nook HD), favouring electronic ink e-readers because they only allow reading. Whilst you can read on a tablet, you can also play Plants Vs Zombies, Minecraft and you can chat, email and surf the internet – all things which are highly distractive and much more tempting than settling into a long read.

The companies that manufacture readers are beginning to market them more effectively to schools, but there is some way to go before the business model and the user experience facilitates some of the functions that I would like to see for use in the classroom:

1) Guided reader e-books sold in units of six at a lower price than buying the physical books.

2) The ability to control several class e-readers from a PC or admin e-reader – for read alouds and shared reading.

3) The facility to send an e-book to a class set of electronic readers.

4) An easy-to-manage and content-rich school ebook library from which books can be loaned to students’ e-readers. (I think these may exist, but the ones I’ve seen have had a limited range of books from select publishers – I want the full Amazon library!).

But even without such functionality, the simple act of enlarging text could change a child’s perception of reading and therefore significantly improve the quality of their reading life.

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