Early Learning Digest

How to Engage Digital Natives in Reading

The rising generation of digital natives are becoming increasingly wired to respond to, even require, instant feedback, making reading static print a less attractive option amid so many other competing multimedia, interactive choices.

Hispanic teen using digital tablet during classroom in schoolResearch shows that children do not continue to love reading as they age—47 percent of 6-8 year olds report reading for fun, compared to 17 percent for 15-17 year olds. This trend becomes critical in light of the increasing demand for close reading skills in state standards that require extensive practice.

The Downward Reading Trend

The original founder of Curriculet, our independent reading platform for grades 3-12, was a school principal named Jason Singer. He began developing Curriculet in 2012 to solve some very disturbing trends centering on the problem that children did not love reading as they grew older.

While younger children enjoy using their developing reading skills, their interest in reading wanes as they grow older, with activities like video games and television overtaking their leisure time choices. Research confirms this observation, showing a fall of nearly 10 percent since 2010 of young readers choosing to read for fun.

As reported in the biannual Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report, the percentage of children who read books for fun 5-7 days a week drops from 47 percent of 6-8 year olds to just 17 percent for 15-17 year olds.

In contrast, the most successful American leaders read voraciously and identify reading as a key to their success.

This waning interest in reading becomes critical in light of the increasing demand for close reading skills, as defined in the Common Core Standards and mandated in 21st century college and career requirements. Close reading and higher order thinking skills can only be developed through extensive practice that must extend beyond the classroom.

The Start of Curriculet

Singer knew children could be tenacious about practice—they seemed to never tire of practicing their video game skills, but as one student explained to him: “The problem with books is that I never know how well I am doing, but the video game gives me feedback every second, to tell me what I can do better or if I didn’t do something well.”

Contrast this statement with conclusions from leading educational researchers like John Hattie, who studied over 800 meta-analyses of what works in education to confidently assert: “The most powerful single influence enhancing achievement is feedback.”

The rising generation of digital natives are becoming increasingly wired to respond to, even require, instant feedback, making reading static print a less attractive option amid so many other competing multimedia, interactive choices.

Singer also recognized that teachers were limited in how they could fuel a child’s appetite for reading. He observed talented teachers inciting great enthusiasm about a new book in their classroom, only to watch the kids’ interest wane when the library only had one copy available. Teachers did not have budgets for books, low-income families did not have rich home libraries, and libraries only had one or two copies of even the most popular books.

Moreover, studies were showing the use of digital reading increasing, while also yielding lower levels of comprehension and learning than traditional print/paper texts. Singer wondered:

  • How can we leverage the growth of digital texts to help make reading go viral, in the same way that videos go viral among young people?
  • How can we motivate, engage, and sustain kids’ interest while also improving their close reading skills?
  • How can we give teachers tools to easily create rich multimedia content for reading any text that can be customized to the individual student, class, or school?

With Curriculet, Singer conceptualized a reading platform that would empower the reader with in-app supports and scaffolds

  • to model how and when to apply close reading skills;
  • to enrich the text with multimedia supports that engage learners and aid their understanding;
  • to layer their reading with interactive checkpoints that provide immediate feedback so that they can actively self-monitor and fix their comprehension;
  • and to mitigate the problem of access in ways that support a movement of shared, viral enthusiasm among kids for reading.

How Curriculet Addresses the Problem

Curriculets embedded directly in the text in the form of questions, annotations (print, graphic, and video), and quizzes can model, teach, and support students in comprehension strategies, like activating prior knowledge, questioning, visualizing, monitoring, clarifying, using fix up strategies, drawing inferences, and summarizing/retelling.

For example, annotations (notes, graphics, video) can help readers understand the structure of the text, build their background knowledge, clarify concepts, or apply the themes or concepts addressed to their own lives. These annotations can act as in-text scaffolds to aid their comprehension.

Multiple choice questions occur approximately every four pages and enable readers to check and monitor their understanding with immediate feedback as to whether they are right or wrong. Similarly, open ended questions promote application and reflection or help the reader draw inferences, with questions always increasing in difficulty as the book progresses.

And finally, section and book quizzes can help students develop skills to locate and recall information, integrate and interpret, as well as critique and evaluate.

Curriculet is designed to inform, rather than distract, the reading experience and to create a more interactive experience with immediate feedback that has become the norm for today’s digital natives.