Problem: How Do We Encourage Kids to Become Readers
Everyone involved with education agrees on one thing: an educated person reads well.
Reading, decoding symbols for meaning, is the basis of most education. (I’m not forgetting the importance of manipulative or the importance of learning crafts as an intern. I’m also not ignoring math. But this post is about developing readers.) The early education years are focused on developing readers: learning the ABCs, phonics, and decoding words for meaning. I’ve always believed that a good reader could teach themself almost anything.
How do we develop readers?
Some traditional answers:
- A household that has over 25 books will produce better readers.
- 1000 Books. https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/ Some argue that kids need to experience 1000 books before kindergarten.
Basically, access and experience are crucial to developing readers. And usually these answers focus on print books, rather than ebooks. Today, I want to question that premise. Does it matter if kids read print v. eBooks? Why is this question even important enough to write a blog post about it?
MEET THE ALPHA GENERATION
Let’s start by looking at the current elementary student. They are the Alpha Generation, those born 2010-2024. The 2010 babies are now twelve years old and the Alphas will fill up our elementary schools till roughly 2030 before the Betas come along.
Crucial to understanding the Alphas, they are second-generation digital natives. The previous generation, GenZers (1996-2010), were the first generation to be born in a digital age, and they never knew what it was like NOT to have a computer (and much more). Alphas, as second-generation digital natives, are even more nimble with technology.
DO ALPHAS USE TECHNOLOGY? YES!
Overwhelmingly, Alpha kids use technology.
ROBLOX. Reports in April, 2021 show 202 million monthly users. 25% of those are under the age of 9 and 55% under the age of 13.
That’s 50 million monthly users of kids under the age of nine.
Overwhelmingly, Roblox is played on mobile devices. Kids are playing this digital game on their own or their parents’ phones.
Are there any kids NOT playing Roblox?
MINECRAFT. Likewise, the Minecraft data is startling.
2022 reports say that they have 141 million active users who play on game consoles, laptops and desktop computers, mobile devices, and tablets. Part of the appeal is that it crosses devices smoothly. Minecraft is a global game with 21.21% of the daily users in the United States. That’s about 30 million daily users in the U.S. alone.
Males play Minecraft more often than females. Up to 54% of boys ages 3-12 play Minecraft, compared to 46% of girls. 80% of children play with friends, family members, or other online players. Surprisingly, only 11% of parents regularly play Minecraft with their children.
Did you read that? 54% of boys and 46% of girls, ages 3-12 play Minecraft.
Think about that. Between Minecraft and Roblox, it’s safe to say that most elementary school kids play online games.
That is significant screen time!
EPIC! App. The EPIC! reading app is reported to be available free in 90% of US schools. Forbes magazine reported that kids read over 1 billion books on the EPIC! app in 2020.
For school age kids, eBooks are a fact of life. The Alpha Generation moves fluidly from print to ebooks. After the novelty of an iPad wears off, they are nonchalant about which format they read. It makes sense.
Toddlers Proficient with Touch Screens. This new study says even toddlers are great with touch screen technology.
CONCLUSION – AlphaKids are deeply involved in technology/screens daily, with the approval of teachers and parents. They are, after all, the second generation of digital natives.
Educators and parents, the problem of developing strong readers has shifted beneath our feet! And we haven’t kept up! The Alpha kids need and deserve a shift in our strategies and focus. We need to understand that technology is woven into the fabric of their lives. What does that mean as we teach them to read?