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A few weeks ago, I dropped by the fantastic Styling Librarian’s blog to share some of my favourite digital tools I use to get my students reading. You can read the post below, but you should totally drop by the Styling Librarian for a ton of great kids book reviews and articles. And if you hurry, you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Descent into Overworld, my middle grade novel set in Minecraft. So, get going. Then, get reading.


Five Digital Tools to Get Reluctant Readers Reading

Life is full of digital distractions. From hilarious YouTube videos to the latest iPad game, young people have a world of entertainment at their fingers. For many young people today, that means they would rather swipe through apps than turn pages. I can understand.

Tank and Fizz coverAs a kid, I was a tech-obsessed reluctant reader. I’d rather blast aliens than read a book any day. Today, I’m a teacher who tries to use digital tools get introduce video game playing kids to the magic of a good story. I’m also a writer and my books are aimed directly at reluctant readers. My new monster-filled detective series, Tank & Fizz , mixes the appeal of comic books with the allure of a good mystery. Descent into Overworld, my middle-grade adventure set in Minecraft, taps straight into the power of that blocky building game to engage readers.

Each day in the classroom, I turn to a few reliable tools that get kids reading in some surprising ways. Read on to discover five digital tools for the reluctant reader in your life.

Epic: ebooks for kids

epicSometimes just adding a tech element to a book is enough to get a reluctant reader to try out a story. Ebooks are an amazing way to introduce reluctant readers to all the adventures of traditional books. However, buying Ebooks only to have a young reader abandon them after the first few chapters can get expensive. That’s where Epic comes it. For a small monthly subscription, young readers can have access to a world of Ebooks from a range of publishers.
From non-fiction beginning readers to young adult novels and graphic novels (including my Graphic Guide Adventure series), there is a wealth of books to choose from. And the buffet-style approach to titles means parents don’t have to fret if their finicky reader samples a few stories until finding that perfect match.

Visit getepic.com to learn more.

Biblionasium: book-based social network

biblionasium-logoAs a teacher, I’m always encouraging my students to see themselves as readers. That means not only reading books, but also talking about books and sharing recommendations with others. Biblionasium is an online social network for kids designed to do just that. Think Goodreads for kids. Accounts are free and there are many parental controls and features built in to ensure your child’s privacy is secure. Inside Biblionasium, kids can create profiles, earn badges for reading and write reviews of their favorite books. They can search for new books by theme and connect with other readers to swap book suggestions. Setting up an account could be a great way to open reluctant readers to the world of stories waiting to be discovered.

Visit biblionasium.com to learn more.

Tumblecloud Jr.: ebooks come alive

tbcJ_logoThe only thing better than reading a book is having someone read a book to you! The folks at Tumblecloud Jr have gathered together an impressive collection of books and added voice over narration. Readers can choose to read the text themselves or turn on the narration to enjoy the story as an audio book. But it’s with their graphic novel collection that Tumblecloud Jr really shines. Not content to just convert print comics to an electronic format, Tumblecloud Jr also adds simple animation and music to many of their comics (including my own Max Finder Mystery series.) These touches make the stories come alive and are an excellent way to engage readers struggling with pages of text.

Unlike other digital reading tools, parents can access Tumblecloud Jr free of charge only if their local school board or public library has purchased a license. The good news is that many libraries have done just that. To find out, visit your public library’s website and search for Tumblecloud Jr. or ask your librarian.

You can also visit: tbcjr.com to learn more.

Text adventures: old school games for the iPad generation

One of my favorite digital tools to get kids reading doesn’t have many bells or whistles but it has plenty of traps and puzzles. The good old-fashioned text adventure is a low-tech way to get readers traveling down twisty little passages in search of treasure and discovering a love of reading along the way. I grew up playing text adventures like Zork. Even in a world of Xboxes and tablets, there is something magical about these ‘graphics free’ video games. For the uninitiated, text adventures are interactive stories that are presented in short paragraph chunks. Readers are the hero of the story who make decisions that affect how the adventure unfolds. The interactive element and short chunks of text are an ideal way to engage readers who like puzzles and want to be at the heart of the action. Many of the classic text adventures are available online for free and can be played in a standard web browser.

Visit web-adventures.org  for some kid-friendly text adventures.

Minecraft: from block builders to book readers

Unless you’ve been living under a mountain in a world with no children, you’ll know that Minecraft is kind of a big deal. The video game is the obsession of millions of kids around the world, many of them reluctant readers. As a teacher, this level of engagement makes Minecraft an ideal digital tool to encourage reading. The secret is transferring that excitement for the game over to having excitement for reading and writing. I’ve blogged about some ways I use Minecraft in the classroom to boost writing.  As the game has exploded in popularity, the catalog of Minecraft-based reading material has grown along with it. From countless online how-to guides to the incredibly popular Minecraft Guides series of books, readers are spoiled for choice with non-fiction reading material. Minecraft-inspired fiction is another growing area, with my book, Descent into Overworld, being a recent entry.

Using a reluctant reader’s personal interest to encourage reading isn’t a new idea or limited to Minecraft. From Hockey to Pokemon and beyond, tying reading to a special interest is a tried and true strategy.

Digital Reading Tools Delivered Monthly

These are just a few of the ways parents and teachers can use the digital world to get reluctant readers hooked on books. If you want more tech-inspired ways to get reluctant readers reading, subscribe to Reading Change, for monthly project updates and digital resources for the reluctant readers in your life.

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