Everyone knows literacy is important to learning and teachers are always wondering how to make students read more. The truth is, they are reading more. Teachers just don´t know how.
The idea that students these days have more competition for their time from social media, smartphones and on-demand TV is true but only tells part of the story. A vast new world of modern readers and writers has been created by advances in technologies. If you look closely you will see books and stories are more popular than ever.
Traditional books will always have a place in classrooms. Classics are classics because they are well-written and contain themes which resonate as strongly today as they did when they were published. There are myriad ways to pique student´s interest in great writers and great works of literature which are neither dry nor dull.
How reading habits have changed in the internet age
Dynamic teaching ideas and new approaches to the writing are all over the internet. Book clubs and class readings are popular and a motivated, passionate teacher with a love for the books they are communicating will always transmit this to their students.
But as the internet has washed over the earth, it is the new landscapes – the new worlds – it has revealed which can be the most rewarding for teachers.
These days almost every student over the age of ten will have some kind of social media or internet presence. This might be a simple Facebook or Twitter account but often this could be a You Tube (or similar) channel, a webpage or blog.
It is in a teacher´s interests to find out about their students´ online presence and habits. Modern students interact with thousands of followers from their phones. They think nothing of connecting, following and sharing information with huge networks of people. Reading, writing and communicating is always being done.
Blogs and bloggers usually review things, be it books, games, films or aspects of lifestyle. The competition is tough and the writing is often sharp and direct. There is also a surprisingly well-developed, if unwritten, code of ethics and standards. A teacher might be surprised to find out what various of their students are blogging about or incorporating into their latest podcast.
Further proof that students are reading and writing more than ever comes from the world of indie publishing and story-sharing websites. These days the technology exists for anyone to produce and publish an e-book quickly and for free. Far from restricting students to a narrow range of books, this has meant a huge proliferation in taste and product.
There are countless genres and sub-genres these days because supply and demand is so liquid. People can communicate easily – especially young, tech-savvy school students – and canny writers quickly find their market niche. Readers gravitate to writers who write what they want. The writing might not be great literature but competition is fierce. Standards both in production design (covers and interiors) and content are higher than you might expect.
The proliferation of English as a global language means that the audiences for books and stories these days is enormous. There are now more non-native English speakers than native and huge markets like the United States and India. Whereas a modern prize-winning literary book might sell in the low thousands, a top-ranking story on Wattpad, a platform set up for young readers and writers, might have been read by around two million people.
Wattpad, a website which employs less than 100 people, has over thirty million stories on it, written in fifty languages. Sixty-four thousand stories are uploaded every day. Half will have been written on a mobile phone. Eighty-five percent of Wattpad users are of the generations called “Millennials” or “Generation Z”. They are modern school students.
Today´s high standards of literacy means that more young people than ever are reading, writing and sharing stories. But this is happening under the radar of the mass media and traditional news outlets. Phones and other mobile devices are used to share this writing and reading with worlds almost invisible to older people.
Teachers must be aware of these changes and must explore this new, half-hidden world.