Monday, October 24, 2016

On eBooks in the Elementary School

Christopher Fluetsch

Hendricks, F. (2013). Ebooks in the elementary. Arkansas Libraries, 70 (1), 17.

Sun, T. (2014). Ebooks take hold - slowly. School Library Journal, 60 (12), 12.

Taylor, M. (2012). Digital reading: a look at a second grade class. School Library Monthly, 29 (2), 11-14.

Ebooks are a growing part of nearly every school library collection. Even libraries that do not intentionally invest in ebooks may find that physical copies come bundled with free e-versions of the text. There is as yet no widespread consensus on best practice uses for ebooks, but the literature on the subject is growing.
These three articles all address different aspects of ebook use. Sun’s article is a general overview. Hendricks provides us with a case study of her elementary school library. Taylor’s academic article addresses some of the literature on the subject to date before reporting on a specific second grade class.
According to Sun, ebook collection sizes are trending upwards. More than two-thirds of schools now offer ebooks of various kinds. Interestingly, such books are most often read on desktop computers, not on dedicated ebook readers or smart phones. In fact, school library collections tend to be directed towards classroom use and direct instruction, instead of pleasure reading or “flipped classroom” instructional models (Sun, 2014).
This corresponds to how Henricks describes ebooks in her school library. She reports a slow introduction of ebooks, along with parent and teacher directed training on accessing and using the books. At her school, students read ebooks using classroom devices like desktop computers and iPads. She has not yet seen much use of ebooks outside the classroom environment, but hopes to encourage such use in the future (Hendricks, 2013).
Taylor’s qualitative study looked specifically at how second grade students responded to ebooks. The study found that ebooks were about as popular as print texts with her subjects. They did not report much difference in preference, though ebooks read on computers were associated with positive feelings based on other computer activities. For instance, students who read an ebook on a computer on which they had previously played games felt more positively about the book than those who did not play the unrelated game (Taylor, 2013, 12).
Taylor specifically points out ways in which ebooks can be considered superior to print texts. Among these are the ability of students to share copies of the book more easily, the ability of ebooks to include audio components for second language and reluctant readers, and the ability of ebooks to be accessed from a variety of locations (Taylor, 2013, 13).
All three writers advocated for an expanded role for ebooks in the elementary school library, but from different points of view. All three article a useful starting points for a school librarian considering an ebooks collection.

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