Books for a digital generation

Published 10:58 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I think it’s a requirement for people with degrees in English to feel a little funny about e-readers.

Sure, e-readers maintain the essence of the material, but there is just something wonderful about holding a real book that is lost with an e-reader.

There’s the feeling of the rough pages between my fingers. The way the highlighter ink bleeds through the paper just a little when I find a great line. The creases and folds in the pages that give the book more character.

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With all these things in mind, I’m not sure I would ever own an e-reader. But the kids at Creekside Elementary School feel very differently about the gadgets.

Most of them would rather curl up with a Kindle or a Nook than a ratty old book.

Last year, the school was part of a pilot program to integrate the technology into Suffolk Public Schools.

Media Specialist Kim Richardson was given three different devices, two Kindles and one Sony e-reader, for kids to check out as they would any book.

The kids can’t buy additional books, but they can request that new ones be added.

The program went so well that the division decided to get e-readers for all of the Title I schools.

There’s a debate as to whether the e-readers are more cost-effective than paper books, and there also are arguments that elementary students could easily break the devices.

But I think those arguments are overshadowed by the fact that these machines get kids excited about reading.

Additionally, the e-readers have features that books never will. They can read to you; the text can be made bigger or smaller.

For kids who are visually impaired or who have trouble reading, these features might mean the difference between hating reading and loving it.

Like me, Richardson said she isn’t sure if the readers are right for her, but there’s nothing that thrills her more than to see kids excited about reading, she said.

And I’m with her: Anything that gets kids reading is good in my book.

This generation of kids is used to technology, and they welcome it with open arms. They aren’t intimidated by it.

I think the division is doing the right thing by playing off of the kids’ yearning for technology, and I hope the e-readers will help create more lifelong readers.