The Future of Middle School Sustained Silent Reading
Middle school English Language Arts teachers and learners are blazing a trail, and more research needs to be done concerning their use of reading using technology. Limited work has been carried out on the behaviors of university students using e-readers (Grudzien & Casey, 2008), and a study of third grade readers provided evidence of pleasure and ease of use in e-readers (Sternberg, Kaplan, and Borck, 2007). These devices “offer real potential for a range of readers and may well provide reading experiences that are more valuable for some readers because of the nature of an electronic text that can be easily manipulated” (Goodwyn, 2014). There is, however, limited research on how teachers deliver SSR programs and virtually no empirical guidance on how to do so in a way that supports learning or by using technology. If technology “enables students learn in ways not previously possible” (ISTE, 2012), then the use of technology could affect a correlation between the frequency of autonomous reading learners do for fun, their reading scores and achievement overall. As educators, we have an obligation to expose learners to the many types of texts and reading available by understanding and exploring ourselves, and by accepting and meeting them at their experiences with online hypertext or gaming narratives. Using new tools and a revised understanding of ‘text’, we must deliver a “technologically infused curriculum [that] can develop multiple essential literacies: technological literacy, visual literacy, informational literacy, and intertextuality” (Smolin and Lawless, 2003 cited in Bedard & Fuhrken, 2013) otherwise, individuals will be unable to keep up with or develop strategies to deal with informational technologies and will quickly be left behind.
The Power of Text
Technology is considered a good fit in education when “the learning connections are clear and the selected activities add to the motivation and opportunities for students to gain knowledge” (Labbo & Place, 2010). We know that our students become readers when adults and peers invite them into texts they admire and respect, and who are passionate about reading and books themselves (Rief, 2000). English teachers are, by nature, passionate about reading; the act of reading that is, rather than books per se. It is, afterall, the content not the medium that matters. Engaging students with reading is the key issue and, as teachers, the responsibility is for us to do this in any way that works (Goodwyn, 2014). Reader response theory (Rosenblatt, 1995) argues that the transaction between the reader and the text is a dynamic entity, however, changes in what we understand of as ‘text’ means that the power no longer only resides in the text or with the author of the text (Patterson & Pipkin, 2000). As Biancarosa and Griffiths suggest, the question now is “not the narrow one of how to fit technology into literacy education, but the broader one of how to transform literacy education to meet today’s changing demands” as the dynamic transaction between reader and text is enhanced and made more transparent. Ultimately, the question is, can we utilize this power and relationship with text and technology to meet middle school readers where they are, and motivate them to choose to read for enjoyment in order to impact their overall achievement?
Articles continues on next page ~>