Remodeling reading with technology

Dailey Jogan ’24

Through the adoption of activities and programs to celebrate “March is reading month” in the elementary schools, the magic of reading is being brought into each student’s life.

With each of the seven Grosse Pointe Public elementary schools participating in their own way for reading month, Defer is engaging in a program called “One-School-One-Book”. Third grader Piper Cornwell is diving into their book; “Fenway and Hattie” by Victoria J. Coe.

“It’s about a dog named Fenway (and) a girl named Hattie,” Cornwell said. “Right now in the book, they’re moving and Fenway doesn’t know what’s going on that much.”

The program not only encourages students to read the selected book, but it also fosters a love for reading outside of the curriculum and classroom.

“I like to read graphic novels and chapter books like ‘Matilda’,” Cornwell said. “Even though I don’t have a sister, I like to read the book called ‘Sisters’.”

Since the whole school is participating in reading the book, there are many all-school activities that students and teachers participate in to engage with the text. One way the older students are keeping up with the book is through a trivia contest that ends up with one student getting a prize.

“They have questions and every class gets the same question,” Cornwell said. “Once everyone answers the question my teacher folds them up and picks a winner.”

Student involvement is not possible without the assistance of teachers and school leadership. First grade teacher, and parent in the district, Kate Price sees the large benefits of the school-wide book, even in her younger students.

“We started participating in the One School, One Book and we have done that every year (from when I started teaching),” Price said. “It’s really nice because the whole school picks a book and a copy is sent home per family.”

Then, in-school activities give students of all ages the ability to participate in events and get excited about the book.

“The majority of my students are reading the book at home and you’ll hear them come to school and talk about things like the chapter that they read the night before,” Price said. “That’s really nice and to hear their excitement around the book– it is very valuable.”

At Defer, the importance of reading is not limited to trivia questions and conversions. The month of March also provides teachers a set time to emphasize the importance of reading at home as a family in whatever capacity possible.

“I hope that it just sort of inspires some families to make time for that reading as a family: reading to your child, having your child read to you,” Price said. “I just hope that it sort of helps inspire that love of reading for families and students.”

The importance of reading starts at a young age. Since many elementary students had a gap year due to Covid-19, the importance of reading together is even greater than ever. For many parents like Kendra Caralis, a teacher and mother in the district, learning at home has changed.

“At the elementary level, they’re still using a lot of my physical books,” Caralis said. “Middle school, where my oldest is, I’ve start(ed) to see a little more of (what we have with) digital books and online books.”

With education continuing to turn digital, the shift from paper to computer has been influencing education in more ways than one. At the highschool level Caralis has noticed more issues arising than simple reading setbacks.

“There’s been a shift for sure at the highschool level. I like you not having to carry around heavy textbooks,” Caralis said, “I see the benefit, but I also think there’s something that’s been lost. (Students) are not sure how to use the glossary or the index or even the table of contents.”

With a variety of activities available for students to participate in at home, learning has changed. Every aspect of the reading process has shifted, mostly to include more technology.

“My four year old likes to listen to stories, we use Alexa to tell him stories. There’s a thing called storytime and he loves to listen to those,” Caralis said. “But also we still try to make sure we’re reading too because there’s something different about having someone with you reading and listening to a story.”

Although new technology has changed the way reading is learned and loved, its importance can not be overshadowed. As each family and school participates in “March is reading month” in their own fashion, continuing the support for students to love reading starts in the classroom and at home.

“We always say we encourage families to really make this like a family activity,” Price said. “So if my students can’t read the book, then we’re hopeful that a parent or an older sibling at home can read it to them. We’re hoping that they’re sitting down together as a family and reading the book.”