Got books?

More and more over the past few years, the world’s readers have been devouring their favorite novel, or class assignments, via the Kindle e-reader.

It’s a new frontier from the days not too far removed.

And some Valley High School students have been exposed in recent weeks to utilizing Kindles for their English class assignments.

According to www.wikipedia.org, the Amazon Kindle “is a portable e-book reader. More precisely, it is a software, hardware and network platform developed by Amazon.com subsidiary Lab126 that utilizes wireless connectivity to enable users to shop for, download, browse and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and other digital media in some countries. The Kindle hardware devices, like other e-reader devices, use an e-ink electronic paper display that, in addition to displaying up to 16 shades of gray, minimizes power consumption and simulates reading on paper.”

Susan Kincaid, who teaches English 12, AP and Honors, and Julia Brown, who teaches English 11 and AP, have 30 readers to rotate between their classes.

“After one week of use, the students are excited and reading more, and it is certainly saving us much money because classics can be downloaded for free (books before 1923 missed the copyright laws),” Kincaid said. “Newer books can be downloaded four for the price of one.

“The classes who have not used them yet are anxiously waiting their turns.”

“Since I teach older students, including higher level courses such as Honors English and Advanced Placement (a college level class) I tend to use more novels than the text,” Kincaid continued. “If students are good readers, they will do well in their other classes.

Becca Whitlock, a senior in Susan Kincaid’s AP English class, says she just finished reading Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” which was free to download.

The Kindle concept made that happen, she said.

“I actually fell in love with the book,” she said. “I was just goofing off on Kindle and it looked interesting. It wouldn’t have been something I would have picked up and read if I’d have been on my own.

Whitlock also says the Kindle would come in handy, for example, during vacation. She says she reads several titles in a normal week-long vacation, and not having to pack the actual books would make traveling easier.

All in all, though, she says she still prefers an actual book, bindings and all. She estimates she has 300 to 400 books of her own at home.

“I still like the thrill of opening a book and being able to see how much I‘ve read,” said Whitlock. “That little percentage mark (Kindles tell a reader what percent of a book they‘ve completed) doesn‘t tell me anything.”

“As with any other skill, becoming a good reader takes practice,” Kincaid says. “Since we can download a variety of reading materials on the Kindles, I find students of all abilities more engaged in reading. Some classes are using Kindles for assigned reading. Mrs. Brown's 11th-grade class is using them for studying Huck Finn. They can take and save notes on the Kindle.”

“I have one class that I periodically give them Kindle time and they read whatever they choose,” she added. “Surprisingly, many chose Beowulf, Tom Sawyer and Great Expectations. I doubt they would have chosen the paper book.“

Students can also request and check out a Kindle, she noted.

Cate Brouillard, sophomore in English 10, is currently reading Albert Einstein’s “Theory of Relativity” on her own Kindle, which she received as a Christmas gift. She’s also reading “Hamlet.“ She recently said she’s read 12 books so far on the Kindle.

“The Kindles are an exciting piece of technology,” said Anna Kincaid-Cline, director of curriculum, secondary and career tech for Fayette County Schools. “We have a few other schools that are using (them).

“Nuttall Middle has a set to use with 5th-graders and FIT has purchased them for the nursing program. The hope would be that in the future we could have textbooks on e-readers.”

“The teachers at Valley High have always wanted to find new and exciting ways to interest children in reading,” she added. “One really nice feature the e-reader offers besides books is periodicals. We have a school looking to purchase Kindles for the available periodicals.”

Both Whitlock and Brouillard say the Kindle has at least one big advantage over the normal book.

“If I don’t know a word, I can scroll down and it will give me a definition,” said Brouillard.

“You’re more apt to learn a new word,” added Whitlock.

Brouillard said she has been able to comprehend the Einstein work as she’s gone along. “I’m understanding it right now,” she said.

Cost is another huge advantage, Kincaid stresses.

“VHS is at the forefront of what is certainly a future path for school systems with the onset of increasing technology and high costs of traditional books,” she said. “Even though we’ve only had the Kindles up and running for several weeks, I can see the savings already. Many of our selections are free to download and when we purchase an e-book, we get four for the price of one.

“In other words, a classroom set of novels might run $250 to $300, but cost $60 to download to the Kindles. This gives us more choices, since we usually don’t purchase sets of novels, instead using the free ones sent by textbook companies, and they are not always what the students (or we) would prefer.”

“It is unknown what the future will hold for technology but when teachers and students are excited about something with this kind of potential you know great things will happen,” Kincaid-Cline said.

For one, Kincaid says she would embrace the use of the technology instead of a physical textbook.

“I certainly would love to see it; it will save money for the school system and give students easy access to material,” she said. “Bottom line — anything that gets these kids engaged in reading is a good thing.”

— E-mail:

skeenan@register-herald.com

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