I continue to fight with myself about whether I should advocate more strongly for e-books (over physical books) in classroom libraries. I want to, but my official position is still this: Both are good.
I know that sounds wishy-washy, so let me explain. If there’s a lot of money, then it’s best to get a lot of physical books and a lot of e-books and let the students choose which format they prefer.
But here’s the reality: There is just not enough money. In most public urban schools, there’s barely any. Teachers who want to build classroom libraries have to spend tons of time looking for cheap books, begging their friends for donations, and hoping that they win Penny Kittle’s Book Love grant.
(I hope I win Penny Kittle’s Book Love grant.)
So that’s why I believe strongly in e-books and Kindles.
This picture — which I took yesterday at Envision Academy’s student-run library in Oakland, offers two more reasons I prefer e-books. Take a look:
Do you see what I see?
#1: Look at all that wear and tear!
(The books are less than two years old.) It’s great that students have loved reading them — Sharon Draper writes extremely popular books for young people — but these physical books need replacing soon. (E-books don’t need to be replaced.)
#2: These books didn’t use to be there.
Last year, you couldn’t find a copy of a Sharon Draper book on the library’s bookshelves. Students were always reading Ms. Draper (see #1 above). But now, a year later, those six copies of Forged By Fire are just sitting there, not being read. With physical books, multiple copies have to be bought (expensive) when a title is popular. But when the trend ends, you wish you had spent some of your money on this year’s popular titles. (E-books can be read by six students at a time, all for the price of one.)
So it’s pretty clear to me that it’s best practice to encourage teachers and students to make the move toward Kindles.
But the problem is that there are a lot of people — including me — who like the idea of physical books. I love my Kindle, but it’s a bit harder to curl up with one.
Do students feel the same way? I haven’t done a formal study, but a recent lunch meeting with students in Hayward suggests no.
I asked them, “Do you prefer reading physical books?” Only one student said yes. Most were neutral or preferred reading on their Kindle.
Then I asked them, “There are a lot of people who think that a book is better when you’re reading the physical version. What do you think of that?”
Two students agreed with that notion and said that flipping pages makes the experience more tactile. But again, the vast majority said that the format doesn’t matter — it’s the story that counts.
I’m going to continue talking with students. Even though I believe strongly in the Kindle Classroom Project, it’s important to uncover what teachers and students want.
One thing is clear: What’s currently happening in public urban schools — a scarcity of books, resources, and reading — cannot continue. There needs to major shift in reading culture!
Please let me know your thoughts on this one!