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Tech Solving the Intolerable Motionlessness of Reading

by LeiLani Cauthen

Written words are motionless and unremarkable when approached by human eyes. They lie on paper in black and white, unmoving. It’s terribly boring for children, honestly, and that’s why we have picture books. Still, we expect students to be able to read the boring stuff because some of it has concepts that must be learned in school or professional life. Even a lot of digital curriculum is “flat,” being text-only pages with small amounts of motion by scroll bar. Can new digital curriculum change that?

When reading, a mind must first incorporate the motionlessness. This inertia, if not managed by teaching or a digital method to introduce creative inception reflective of the words (mental visuals), has a barrier effect to literacy often overlooked. Some minds comprehend words only when “reading,” then rise to meaning, but to create mental motion visuals and interrelationships to other concepts is the truest literacy. That is a mind that is comprehending dimensionally.

Because of the initial motionlessness of the written word, reading can also start to equate to the reader the rate at which they should think, the same rate as they read and comprehend. This is where inequity of achievement begins. Slow readers are indoctrinated in slow thinking, and down they go. It’s a horrible corollary.

Language is a symbology both spoken and written, a bridge between us and others, which is why your rate in using it is a major indicator of your intelligence, as judged by others. When creative inception is undeveloped through rich teaching of reading to be fast, language itself can become adversarial to learning. It puts a mental slow-down directly. It makes a person look dull and unintelligent, just because he or she is a slow reader or talker. 

The motionlessness of written words shouldn’t be the first exposure schools give to reading because youth’s attention typically moves about and will rarely deflate to a full stop for flat words on paper. It’s like being on a wrong frequency with them, especially with something they cannot see, hear, touch or put in their mouths. Getting their attention with black and white paper words after most children today have been exposed to iPhones and iPads since they were 2-year-olds is today like trying to get a teenager to dial a rotary phone with no instructions (one of the most hilarious videos on the web today of 17-year-olds trying just that).  Parents and primary teachers can overcome these facts of life by continuing to introduce reading by reading to children with all the added drama they can muster, showing the pictures in the stories, and creating a bit of mystery about the squiggles on the pages that are the words. These might be obvious facts, but what are the new developments in digital reading programs to perhaps take literacy success into guaranteed realms of certainty?

A New Answer

Digital reading programs can come in several flavors. One is book libraries on demand, sometimes enveloped in pre-testing for reading level and a lot of analytics about reading rate and more like Overdrive and Vitalsource. These are great, but few are inclusive of programming inside the book to deliver richer content with animations, sound and graphics that inject life into words. They do have the magic of pictures in many books, and they can automagically place the right literacy leveled books in student libraries so that no student gets discouraged early on by the wrong picks. 

Other digital reading programs are within systems that may provide short videos such as BrainPOP, Awesome Stories, Safari Montage, StrongMind and many others as inclusive parts of the reading. These are great ways to add interest and successfully invoke meaning. 

Finally, there are reading programs as learning games like Squiggle Park. These typically are the height of code programming skill to render a book passage as nearly a virtual interactive world, pacing the reader through a rich mix of animations and sounds that clearly portray the words. Some digital curriculum even allows the student to chose a character they put into the story, and pick various ends of the story based on their preferences, like Amplify

Reading with these levels of meaning can go a long way to both interest readers and to cause them to imaginatively create mental pictures of what they read when they do read flat text. There is much to be said about “teaching by example,” and digital reading programs show great promise in solving the issues of reading to lay a foundation for life-long achievement with every child. 

As you review the plethora of options in the App markets and websites, keep in mind that quality digital curriculum reading can and should fluidly incorporate examples of visuals, sounds, screen motion swoops and more to drive creative inception to then occur by students voluntarily. This is especially true for the younger children, and especially if there are reading periods personally assigned and the teacher is not doing the reading aloud to the whole group all the time. Well-illustrated books have always tried to make words less “flat,” but in the digital realm the lengths to which programmers can go to animate words is enormous. 

Schools are well-advised to look at this new magic as a key foundation to all their literacy programs.

This article originally appeared on The Learning Counsel.

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