MIKE ON: Learning to love e-books!

Article published on March 15, 2016.

When it comes to books, I’m an unapologetic traditionalist. I love print books; the way they feel, the smell of new pages, and the sound one makes when it flops onto my doormat. Although I have read at least one e-Book (Stephen King’s ‘Guns,’ if you’re interested), they generally leave me feeling cold, and engaging with the text through a screen has always seemed impossible to me.

Still, as with so many things, the next generation have much to teach us. Recently my five year old daughter, Leah, has been using ActiveLearn – known in our house as ‘Bug Club’ on account of the cheerful cartoon insects who help her navigate it – to read eBooks online. And wouldn’t you know it, it turns out there is an area in which eBooks have got their printed cousins beat. Using this pleasing little tool, she can read eBooks hand-picked by her teacher specifically to match her ability and developmental needs. If she needs to work on “ea,” “ou,” or “tch,” sounds, for example, her teacher just picks a few for her to read and off we go.

Sitting down in front of the laptop screen, the scales fell from my eyes. eBooks are essentially immortal – they don’t fall victim to the gum and grip of infant hands; they can talk back, helping with pronunciation; they can even be interactive, offering little challenges to gauge comprehension – a welcome complement to the classic parental ‘prompt and praise routine.’ Moreover, as far as I’m aware they can be in two places at once; if two of my daughter’s classmates have trouble with the same sounds, or need to work on their phonetics, that’s fine – both can read the same eBook, and they don’t even have to remember to bring it back to class. There’s even a handy little log of everything she’s read previously.

And so it is that with the zeal of the new convert, and with the little reading voice of my daughter still audible in the background, I say to you… I love eBooks.

Mike Stafford
March 2016

[Ed: It behoves me to add that I’m sure there are other such programmes available

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