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 –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/secretofthesacredscarab/

Website: www.chroniclesofthestone.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn

Author Site: http://www.FionaIngram.com

Blog: http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2868182.Fiona_Ingram

Assistive Technology for the Classroom

One of my favorite things about any ABSPD Institute training at Appalachian State University is learning new technology available for my classroom. New ideas and tools invigorate our methods and make our classrooms more interesting. Here are some of the ideas from the 2018 Institute.

Fortune-Telling Game

Jeff Goodman created a simple writing game by using some of his photography to make a set of “fortune telling” cards. The cards have been physically printed and turned face down on a table to reveal just their backside (a mosaic of one larger image). Students pick a card and a different image is revealed on the face side of the card. Peer students write a fortune for the student based on the image that was chosen. The fortunes are shared orally and used to discuss cognitive theory such as how everyone saw something different in the image.  In the digital version of the game, images of the cards are projected through a slideshow and animation is used to link image slides to a master slide to create the card flipping action. A shortened version of the digital game is shown on this post, but you can download the full game here.

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Select and Speak – Text to Speech Google Chrome Add-On

Select and Speak is an add-on tool for Google Chrome that will let users highlight text and have it read to them in multiple languages. It can be very useful for English Second Language learners as well as learners with Learning Differences such as dyslexia or visual impairments. The add-on is free, but it does have an upgrade that you can do at an additional cost. You can find the add-on and a short video about it here.

Click to Dictate – Speech to Text Google Chrome Add-On

Click to Dictate is an add-on tool for Google Chrome that will let users talk to their computer and have it type for them. It can be helpful for visually-impared students, but it is also a great time saver in general. I dictated a whole set of lessons in Google Docs using this tool. It is not good at punctuation, so you will need to edit it for corrections, but it will translate every word it hears with fair accuracy. Check it out here.

Newsela – News Articles in Different Reading Levels

Newsela is a pretty impressive resource that offers articles in a wide range of current and historical events. Every article is available with multiple reading levels and questions for quizzes and/or activities. I have used the free account access to expand reading comprehension with my students in the context of the subject I was teaching them at the time. The quality of this product and its expansive selection are very impressive. Check it out here.

ABSPD Vocabulary Lessons

Part of what students struggle within testing is simple lack of knowledge of key vocabulary terms. There are tier 2 words that students need to be familiar with in any subject area, but teaching them can be a burden to make creative and fun. ABSPD created a series of lessons to help with this. Each lesson teaches five tier 2 words with breakout activities and discussion. Lessons are downloadable here.

Google Suite for Collaboration

Part of having a Gmail account is having access to a free network of tools called the Google Suite. In the Suite, you have cloud storage, word processing, spreadsheets, calendars, drawing capabilities, and more. Any add-ons you have on your Google Chrome will also work in the Suite, so, for example, I can use my add-on to dictate text into a document. I used that to transcribe a whole series of grammar lessons. Anyone can share a file via email and work on it with other team members by using the Google Suite. Use is free and easy with most accounts though there is a limit on storage. For more information, check them out here.

ASL Sign Language Dictionary

If you have a student that is hearing-impaired, you may want to try this app. The app allows you to look up a word and learn how to say it in sign language by watching a short video. One teacher used to help communicate with a student and other students became excited about it and wanted to learn too. It can be a great team-building skill as well as a necessary life skill for some learners. Check out the app here.

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives – Math

Sometimes it helps to be able to teach a math concept with objects that can be physically moved around and manipulated to learn the concept with. This website hosts a vast array of manipulatives for math and some games. Tools range for levels K-12 in all areas of math. You can explore the website for free here.

Free Audio Books – Librovox.org

I love having audio books to read through a text and I have found a lot of good readers submit their work for free to Librovox.org. The whole site is copyright free and can be downloaded or streamed for instructional purposes. I have used several books here, but my favorite read is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Check it out here.

NASA – Great Science stuff

NASA releases high-definition images from space and Earth on its website as well as tons of articles, streaming video, downloadables, and other cool bits of Earth and Space science. Check out their website for more information here.

Mind Vector – Brainstorming

This app is a lot of fun for brainstorming for writing essays or group projects. It can also be used to create organizational charts. The app itself is free for Mac or Android. You can find out more about it here.

Table Topics Cards – Writing Prompts

Table Topics cards are a set of flash cards you can use for writing practice. They were created to be conversation starters around a table at a party, but they can make for fun writing practice as well. Coupled with Mind Vector, they become engaging tools for students who may struggle with writing in general. Find out more about the cards here.

Story Cubes – Writing Prompts

Story Cubes offer a fun way to prompt writing practice with a set of dice that have pictures on them. Sets of cubes come with different themes and can be used individually or in groups. Users toss the dice and have to create a story using whatever random set of images they land on. For more about the cubes, check out their website here.