Learning and Development

Early years reading – Take story time on screen

  • Early years reading – Take story time on screen

Want to use technology with children meaningfully but don’t quite know where to start? Try these tips from Natalia Kucirkova and Teresa Cremin…

There has been a lot of pressure on early years practitioners during the pandemic, in all aspects of children’s learning, including the use of technology.

On one hand, educators are encouraged to use technology to support children’s development; on the other hand they are told it is better to prise children from the screen to the page.

The good news is that, when it comes to children’s reading for pleasure, you do not need to resort to the cliché of Kindle versus book – use both to motivate and support them as readers!

Find a balance

The first thing to do is to abandon the worry that children’s eyes, brains or bodies get damaged if they read on-screen instead of paper.

Work towards a healthy balance between reading on- and off-screen, and remember that it is the content of the story and who reads it to or with them (and how they do it), that matters.

Prepare well

If you plan your reading session on-screen, you need to prepare the book title and set-up as much as you would for a paper book. If you have never read on Zoom and need some step-by-step tips on how to go about it, you’ll find a useful guide here.

To choose your books, consider the National Literacy Trust’s guide on literacy apps. They offer stories as well as reading activities.

Show the way

Another important way to ensure children read for pleasure with screens is that you do that too. Don’t be shy to discuss and model your own online reading practice with the children and their relatives.

Talk about how you go about choosing high-quality texts, or which pictures or photos you like browsing. Download an app or an ebook that you have not read before and if you haven’t yet – do try it!

Develop your practice

Whether you are a novice or a veteran in children’s digital reading, you might enjoy the regular Reading for Pleasure Book Blether – one-hour Twitter sessions organised by the Reading for Pleasure OU Team, where teachers, librarians and researchers get together to share their knowledge of children’s books and enrich their related practice.

A diverse range of children’s digital books can be downloaded for free, in multiple languages, from the children’s digital books website.

Get creative

Last but not least, the principle that readers who write are writers who read applies to digital reading and writing too. So, make sure you encourage children and staff you work with to not only read ebooks but also make their own.

There is a growing bank of children’s Corona ebooks available in many European languages, but you can make ebooks on any topic, with your own photos, illustrations, texts, voiceovers and sound effects.

This free book from UCL has a list of apps and tips on how to create and share ebooks.

Children need a variety of texts to become keen and motivated readers, and technologies can facilitate this journey. In our recently published book, Children Reading for Pleasure in the Digital Age, we outline the benefits of reading, online and offline – from short sentences on cereal packaging to long fantasy stories.

The key is the quality of the reading session; get it right and you can develop high-quality reading with or without screens.

Natalia Kucirkova and Teresa Cremin are the authors of Children Reading for Pleasure in the Digital Age. To receive a 20% discount on your copy, use code Reading20 at sagepub.co.uk.