Using Computers to Improve Reading Skills

The following post is by Fiona Ingram and part of a blog tour promoting her new book, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper. To join the blog tour, see the list of dates posted here.

What makes children want to read, and how do parents encourage them to read, especially in a world where there is a dizzying array of technological devices to draw them away from the printed word. How can one make reading fun in a media driven world where social media and technology have such an impact on the
simple act of reading?

Digital and visual literacies are the new wave of communication specialization. Most people will have technologies readily available not only to communicate but also to create, to manipulate, to design, to self-actualize. Children learn these skills as part of their lives, like language which they learn without realizing they are learning it. Our children are natives of cyberspace—they are digitally well informed. The greatest challenge is moving beyond the glitz and pizzazz of flashy technology to teach true literacy in this new milieu, without losing hold of the basic building blocks of reading the old-fashioned way.

There are many creative ways to get kids to rediscover reading and one of them is by engaging them with something all kids understand: computers.

Many parents see computers as an obstacle to children reading the printed word. Many parents also fear that their children will lose out on the tactile pleasure of handling a real book, of learning to love and cherish firm favorites, and that their concentration will be affected by the instant gratification of technology-driven devices. This is also true where children show distinct signs of illiteracy yet can instantly manage to work a cell phone and tap into the sub-language that defines texting. However, some novel and fun ways of using technology creatively will get kids right where parents want them—reading! Parents can use computers to get kids more interested in reading by letting them create their own ‘books’ and projects.

Empower Your Child

Kids love playing around on computers so turn the idea of reading around—let them create their own story, become an author. What could be more empowering! This will allow them ‘ownership’ of the story, and that’s an irresistible challenge for any child.

Creative Thinking

The subject can be about them, an incident, or a fictitious character. They’ll not just create it but illustrate it (either their own drawings or using free images available from the Internet), design it and print it out. Parents will be amazed at what happens once the child takes charge of their own project. You can help your child develop the story, getting them to write it out first by hand, and then going through it several times (maybe another family member can also give their input). They can then create the project on the computer.

Share the Results

When their book project is finished, parents can suggest the child hand it in to their grade teacher for inclusion in the school magazine or newspaper. Or perhaps it can be a gift for a grandparent or family member. You could even have it properly bound at a local stationer.

Offer Praise

Praise and success are incredibly motivating factors in any child’s development. They’ll automatically feel inspired to achieve more. Now parents can introduce new activities that show printed books in a very novel light.

Read Together

This is a good time to find a book you both like and, besides reading together, ask your child to suggest alternative actions on the part of certain characters, asking if they agree on how the story is unfolding, and how they would have written the characters’ actions if they disagree. Encouraging a thought process will make your child feel their opinion counts. Once the book is finished, have your child create their own ‘review’ on the computer, print it out and either post or email it to your local bookshop or library. Imagine their pride and delight if the review is published in a local newspaper or put up on the library notice board.

Wonderful Websites

Most successful children’s books and book series have websites with interesting aspects to explore. Is the series set in a real or fantasy place? Do the characters have important choices to make? Don’t be afraid to let your child get onto the computer and read all about the series, the author, the movie, the actors, the settings, and the characters. Ask your child questions about what they have learned and praise their research.

Far from being an obstacle to reading, computers can enable children to think creatively in producing their own literary projects. Taking ownership of something unique and special will encourage a child’s confidence and inspire them to read and research more. Parents can assist their child to achieve the desired results by helping with practical aspects of the book project, by praising their child’s efforts, by involving other family members or teachers, and by reading together with their child.

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About the Author

Fiona Ingram is a children’s author, but up until a few years ago, she was a journalist and editor. Something rather unexpected sparked her new career as an author—a family trip to Egypt with her mother and two young nephews. They had a great time and she thought she’d write them a short story as a different kind of souvenir…. Well, one book and a planned book series later, she had changed careers. She has now published Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) in her middle-grade adventure series Chronicles of the Stone, with many awards for the first book,

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, and a few for Book 2, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, and one already for Book 3! She also teaches online novel writing for aspiring authors and she finds that very satisfying. Relaxation time finds her enjoying something creative or artistic, music, books, theatre or ballet. She loves doing research for her book series. Fiona loves animals and has written two animal rescue stories. She has two adorable (naughty) little dogs called Chloe and Pumpkin, and a beautiful black cat called Bertie.

You can find Fiona at –




Author Site:



What Happened to the Lost Boys: A Discussion About Abandoned Children in J.M. Barrie’s Neverland and Beyond

…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:40, NIV

I’ve always been a bit curious–and sad–about what happened to the lost boys in Neverland. Were these poor children abandoned by their parents? Were they kidnapped? Were they orphans? And when Peter Pan leaves the island, do they feel abandoned once more? In this post, we discuss the issue of orphaned children and what we can do to make a difference in their lives.

There are several versions of the classic J.M. Barrie tale and the adventures of Peter Pan. According to the author, the lost boys are children who fell out of their strollers when their nannies weren’t looking and were then whisked away to live in Neverland after they were unclaimed for seven days. These lost children were always boys because, according to Barrie, girls were too clever to get lost that way (though they do in some of the stories).

I think the idea that a child could be missed for seven days suggests the child likely was an orphan.

There are several stories that suggest the boys come and go off the island as they show signs of growing up or desiring to do so. For a full history of the story as it has been told through film and prequels like the Starcatcher series, check out this website.

Though J.M. Barrie wrote about the lost boys based off of real boys he had befriended personally, I have to wonder what happens to the lost boys–and girls–today. What happens to orphans when they become orphans?

I’ve heard horror stories of orphans being abused and neglected first by their biological parents and then by the guardians and system of care that is supposed to protect them. These stories were shared with me firsthand by the orphans themselves as adults in my classroom.

One child remembered being taken from her abusive parents in the middle of the night with nothing but a black trash bag to hurriedly gather her belongings. She didn’t understand that her addicted parents were doing something to her that they shouldn’t. She didn’t know she was being neglected. Therefore, she spent a lot of years bouncing around the system and trying to call her abusers every chance she could get. They would try to manipulate her into getting the money and supplies to continue their addictions. Even when she realized that they were asking her to do something wrong, she still called them. She so desperately wanted their validation of her worth.

Another child remembered being removed from a neglectful home only to end up in a foster home where the fosters pocketed their government aid, kept too many children, and provided minimal food and necessities for them. In this scenario, the heroes became villains as well. Children were left to grow up fast and find creative ways to provide for themselves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

Psalm 127:3-5, NIV

How many times do adults treat children like burdens, free labor, or worse with little to no consideration of the heritage they are building in them?

How many times do we see examples of adult selfishness playing out on the values of younger generations we see in the groceries stores and streets today?

Many of the orphans I have talked to describe their feelings like being on a rollercoaster. They lash out at people that treat them kindly because they don’t know who to trust and they fear being abandoned again. Because a child’s sense of safety and self-worth comes from their parents and these kids had toxic parents, many of them never found the understanding and sense of belonging they needed to become healthy, balanced adults.

What could we do to make a difference in just one life like this today?

There is good news! Not every lost boy and girl stayed in that place of abandonment.

I have a friend that grew up in a Christian orphanage not far from me. He doesn’t talk about his birth family, but he talks about life in the orphanage and the people that poured into him. You can read more about him and his story on his blog. 

Despite what others experienced, my friend was loved in his orphanage. Employees that saw their job as an opportunity to minister gave him hope and life when his own life “sucked”. He found hope and faith in Jesus, and he became a Christian. Then he realized that he wanted to be a pastor.

Two weeks before his sixteenth birthday, he was adopted by a prominent pastor and his wife. His new family showed him love and kindness. He found a sense of belonging and purpose through his faith and his adopted family. The family mentored him in the career path he would later pursue and introduced him to the woman who would later be the wife and mother of his children. God was looking out for this little lost boy!

Do you know a lost boy or a lost girl?

What can you do to speak hope and life into their world today?