Recently I heard of a very large school, with eight or nine classes per year group, which has invested in kindles and nooks for all pupils in Years Seven, Eight and Nine. Most classes have over thirty children, so that's a heck of a lot eReaders. The school has preloaded each eReader with a total of eighteen books for the school year. It also preloads subject specific word banks, revision tools, and other tasks to support work in lessons and out of school.
Interesting, although the school allows its pupils to read paper books, all their form reading time and reading in English lessons must be on the eReader. Even more interestingly, pupils require a permission note from the parent to bring a paper book to school!
Apparently, "a student's academic success can be greatly increased through active reading and the process of actively engaging with texts, and tools such as 'look up' on the eReaders are excellent in supporting this."
I know a couple of kids who go to this school and they don't much like reading on the eReader - they far prefer paper books. The trouble is they're no longer encouraged to read paper books in preference to the school's preferred preloaded digital books.
Is this happening in other schools? I wonder if this is something that's being rolled out in schools right across the UK. I don't know the answer.
Do I like that this might be happening? No, I don't, because I think it discourages kids from making their own choices in reading. It also discourages an enquiring mind - one that picks up a book at random, looks at the cover, reads the blurb, the opening page, and then decides whether or not to read that book over another one that on the bookshelf, or to continue browsing. Browsing a bookshelf is not the same as wading through a prescribed list of books on an eReader.
I think there's a danger that enforcing eReader use in schools may end up being counter-productive. If the preloaded books do not appeal to the kids then they are essentially stuck. Reading should be a pleasure. Yes, we all had to read certain texts for schools that we may not have cared for ‑ but not up to eighteen of them, and not to the apparent exclusion of anything else.
I have yet to see the list of books preloaded onto the school's eReaders. Some will be set texts, but I don't know the criteria for how the other books are chosen. It would be interesting to know what these criteria are.
I'm not against e Readers - I have an eReader, which I love. It's great for holidays, and for reading samples of books. For all sorts of people who live in countries where it's hard to get books for whatever reason, social, political etc, I'm sure an eReader is absolutely indispensable.
I also have a lot of paper books - I buy lots of books, I borrow lots of books from the library, I love books. My eReader has its place, but it does not take the place of a proper paper book.
Schools may well find eReaders to be a valuable tool, and used in conjunction with other resources, I'm sure they perform a valuable function. But I don't think they should ever wholly replace a paper book - and, more importantly, kids don't seem to think so either.