Today I gave out 10 new Kindles to ninth graders in San Francisco. It was really fun. One by one, I called each student to the back of the classroom to have a little conference.
I’ve found that these conferences give me a chance to demonstrate how serious I am about their reading. I ask the students what book they’re reading, what their favorite book has been this year, and why they’re interested in reading on a Kindle.
If a student is reading a book that’s not on the Kindle, I can immediately purchase the book, thanks to many generous donors. Today, I bought five books to ensure that students felt they could read exactly what they want to read. Also, I made sure to let the students know about the online book request form. (This year, 40+ books have been requested and bought.)
Another great thing about these conferences is that I can emphasize to students the importance of taking care of their Kindle. Kindles are very fragile, especially for 14-year-olds, and while I no longer go crazy when one is damaged, I want to send a strong message to be careful. My favorite things to say are, “Don’t smush it,” and “Treat your Kindle like your phone.” The second one, in particular, seems to work.
I continue to find that boys — especially Latino boys — love reading on Kindles. Today’s Kindles went to 4 Latino boys, 3 African American boys, and three Latina girls.
Also, Kindles tend to go to students below grade level on their reading. Only one of 10 students today who borrowed a Kindle is above grade level. Four students have fifth grade reading levels or below.
One Latino boy, Julio (not his real name), is particularly excited about reading on a Kindle. This year, he has read three books in paper, and and first semester, he raised his reading score from 3.2 to 4.2. When I asked him today why he wanted to read on a Kindle, he said that he didn’t want to have any lapse between finishing one book and beginning another. He added that he’s happy with his reading growth this year so far but wanted to score at least a 7.0 by the end of the year.
These days make me very proud of the Kindle Classroom Project and extremely appreciative of its many donors.
I write a lot about the joy of reading. There definitely is joy. But I’m as interested in the power of reading. Young people who read are not dependent on other people. They don’t need to rely on television or other visual media. They can go wherever their curiosity leads them.