striving readersWe all remember the group read-aloud. The details varied; sometimes we read while seated and others we were required to stand. Each student got a page or a paragraph and read it loud enough for everyone to hear. Inevitably came the moment of panicked pause, then hesitant verbal fumbling. Sometimes our teacher helped with pronunciation, but often the reader was left to sound the word out. Perhaps we felt empathy for their struggle, or maybe we giggled into our fists. We likely felt relief that it wasn’t us. But when we were the stumped reader, what we felt was mortification. Burning cheeks, sweaty palms and distraction so great that it became impossible to focus on the remaining readers, the story or the lesson. These effects probably lingered for the next 20 minutes. It takes at least that long for the body to metabolize adrenaline. A stressed mind is hardly primed to learn, nevermind the damaging association between reading and stress. It’s no accident that education has turned away from performative activities like these, toward more personalized care for each student’s learning needs.

A student’s reading level is between him and his teacher

A 2014 Annie E. Casey Foundation study found that 66% of kids are not reading at grade level. It’s worse for lower-income students, 80% of whom are not reading proficiently. Help for striving readers comes from better policy, funding and thoughtful support from educators. Students can make the most of the privacy allowed through an eReading platform, choosing Read-Alongs, audiobooks, dyslexic font and other features to access the content they want with the support they need.

Prying eyes of peers aren’t only an issue for striving readers. Accelerated students often want to quietly and privately work ahead. Grade-level achievement for all students is an important goal for K-12 schools, but not to the detriment of those achieving at the highest levels. The goal should be to enrich and deepen learning rather than simply accelerating students through grade-level courses.

Privacy and personalization serve all students, no matter their reading level.

Privacy protects reading engagement

How do we keep students engaged with reading through their entire educational journey? Attitudes about reading peak in elementary school, reading consumption peaks in middle school, then declines sharply in high school. Some research blames technology, others opine that an advanced course load, extracurricular activities and preparing for college leaves teens with less time for leisure reading. Only about six minutes a day, according to some studies.

Choice is a powerful motivator. It implies trust and responsibility, things teens need more of from the adults in their life. Digital reading offers them the agency to choose the books they want to read. It makes that reading experience available from anywhere, accessible anytime to fit into their busy schedule. eBooks and audiobooks transform reading from a performative activity like the classroom-dependent group read-aloud to an engaging, customized, stress-free experience, one ideal for learning.