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 Riding the Reading Roller Coaster:
Information Age Literacy
Annette Lamb
Click Reading Roller Coaster Workshop to go to a workshop based on this article!
When it comes to roller coasters, do you like wood or metal, loops or curves, speed or height? Or, do you prefer to skip the roller coaster ride?
What about reading? Do you like fiction or nonfiction, skinny or big books, difficult or easy, fun or serious? Or, do you prefer to skip reading?
Not everyone likes the same things, but reading is important to everyone in the information age. Start thinking differently about the role of books and reading in your life. There are electronic books, ezines, online publishing, and web-based information. Maybe you don't like roller coasters, but have you tried the other rides? Maybe you don't like all books, but have you tried magazines, short stories, and audio books?
Times have changed. When I wrote my book report on the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, I didn't have a word processor or the Internet. It would have been great to have the word processor help with the spelling and the Internet to help visualize the setting. Today, I can see a real map and photos of the Metropolian Museum of Art in New York. Learn about Michelangelo. I can also read more about topics that are discussed in the book such as Clara Barton.
In the information age, you'll find more and more interactive books that include text, graphics, audio, activities, and games. For example, Tivola Software's The Little Prince and Mercer Mayer's, Just Me and My Dad.
Electronic books such as Rocket ebooks, Softbooks, Laptop software, Microsoft Reader, and Glassbooks are among the new generation of paperless books now available through the Internet and other technology. Give them a try!
The Spectrum of Reading Possibilities
Reading is reading. Although it would be great if you wanted to read a classic like Harper Lee's, To Kill a Mockingbird or a new popular book such as Ella Enchanted, reading an article on Sports Illustrated online is still reading. Look for the joy of reading whether it's a horror online or a paperback romance.
A great new book about reading and writing for adults is by Stephen King called On Writing. According to Stephen King (Good Morning America), reading bad literature is as important as reading good. The more you read the better you get. You can really enjoy a good book when you know how bad, bad can be. Think about it.
Fantasy and Science Fiction. Harry Potter has made fantasy a popular genre of reading. Whether it's wizards, dragons, elves, kings, or aliens, fantasy and science fiction are hot! Remember, everyone doesn't like everything, but if you haven't tried reading Harry Potter, Ella Enchanted, or The Giver, how will you ever know? Check out more about Harry Potter at Scholastic.
Realistic Fiction. Some people prefer to stay firmly grounded in reality. For those people, books about families, relationships, problems, and issues are what they seek. Bring the world to your home with books such as Holes, Bridge to Terabithia, Maniac Magee, What Jamie Saw, and Walk Two Moons. My current favorite is a young adult book by Laurie Halse Anderson called Speak. For people who'd like to discuss real-world issues, try a chat room at Freezone.
Adventure. Do you like books that involve adventure and survival, honor and tradition, courage, determination, making choices, and living on your own? Each generation seems to have a favorite survival book. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was Johann David Wys's Swiss Family Robinson, in the 1960s the book was Jean Craighead George's, My Side of the Mountain or Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins, then in the 1980s it was Gary Paulsen's, Hatchet. Today, many of Will Hobb's books fit this category. You can also go online and read more about survival.
Humor. Do you like cute, funny, silly, or even hilarious books? Do you want reading to be fun? Try Squids will be Squids, How to Eat Fried Worms, or Bunnicula. A new book by Arthur Dorros called The Fungus that Ate My School is a current favorite. Learn more about fungus online.
Historical Fiction. Are you a time traveler? Do you like to go back to ancient times, the middle ages, or World War I? Would you like to bring an important event or everyday life alive? Check out Midwife's Apprentice, Out of the Dust, Number the Stars, or Dragon's Gate. Christopher Paul Curtis's Bud, Not Buddy is set during the Depression and won the 2000 Newbery metal for the best in children's literature. Each book has its own appeal. I like the Jazz music topic in Bud, Not Buddy. Read Lois Lenski's Indian Capture and learn about her real grave at the Find A Grave website.
Biography. How did famous people become famous? Find out by reading biographies. Russell Freedman has written some great biographies including Eleanor Roosevelt, Wright Brothers, and Abraham Lincoln. A great new book is an autobiography by Lois Lowry called Looking Back.
The Sciences. You don't have to read fiction. Many people enjoy reading about the world of real math and science. For example, Jim Murphy's The Great Fire traces the Great Chicago fire and David Slatner discovers The Joy of Pi. Read about apples with the book by Bobbie Kalman called Hooray for Orchards. Then, go to the 42eXplore page on Apples to learn more.
The Arts. Read about the world of art, music, and humanities. For example, Linnea in Monet's Garden explores the life of Monet and his art. Read about quilting in Mary Cobb's, Quiltblock History of Pioneer Days, and make your own quiltblocks with KidPix.
Tickets for Success
Promote the love of reading in yourself and others. Share what you read with others. The more we reading, the more we enjoy.
Start with Interests. Do you like the outdoors, romance, adventure, sports, friends, or computer games? Look for games, books, stories, and online resources the match you interests. For example, I enjoyed reading the short story called Ender's Game in Analog magazine back in 1977. Since then, I've become a fan of the author, Orson Scott Card and read a dozen more of his books including his new book Ender's Shadow. I recently reread his original Ender's Game book after nearly 20 years. I've even enjoyed visiting the author's website.
Active Reading. Connect books with other things you enjoy such as talking, walking, or taking photographs. For example, read the book by Lindsay Barrett George called In the Woods: Who's Been Here? Then go outside and create a map of your backyard or a local park. Take pictures, make drawings, create treasures hunts, or write your own book!
Think Magazine. You don't have to read books to enjoy reading. Enjoy a newspaper or magazine. An electronic book is called an ezine. Try reading an ezine for a change. There are many ezines for children and young adults such as Time for Kids, and Smithsonian. You can read USA Today or Tiger Beat!
Lead the Way. Let an interest lead you to the Internet and a web page lead you to a book. For example, if you're interested in hang gliding try the website HangGlide. Then read Will Hobbs's book called The Maze. This may get you interested in learning more about Peregrine Falcons and other endangered birds.
Explore Authors. When you get done reading a book, ask yourself: Who wrote it? Why? What are they like? What else have they written? Do a search on the Internet for the author of your book and you'll find lots of fascinating information. For example, look up Will Hobbs.
Try New Formats. Do you like to read letters, diaries, and email? Try books in these formats. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl may be the best known diary. Try some of these other books such as Dear Mr. Henshaw, A Gathering of Days, Nothing by the Truth, and Out of the Dust for some interesting book formats. Danziger and Martin have written a book called Snail Mail No More. It is written as a series of emails and instant messages.
Involve Readers. A fun thing about reading on the Internet is the interactive nature of the medium. In other words you can add to stories such as creating a new ending, drawing an illustration, and participating in a discussion. Try the website Stories to Grow By.
Read on the Web. You can find interactive stories, articles, and books published on the Internet. You can even find things for beginning readers such as Lil Fingers.
Imagine with Book. Reading is not just about text literacy, it's also about visual literacy and the joy of imagination. Try reading a wordless book such as David Wiesner's, Sector 7.
Think as you Read. Try simple activities such as reviewing, discussing, highlighting, applying, and creating as you read. If you're reading Patricia MacLachlan's, Sarah Plain and Tall, then make a simple list of wildflowers or things in Maine. Build a chart of characters or places.
Try an Activity. Pick one activity to help you and your child remember the book. For example, if you read Peggy Rathmann's, Officer Buckle and Gloria create safety stars. Or, if you read Janet Stevens's, Tops and Bottoms plant a garden, discuss nutrition, or talk about morals. Create your own books. If you read, Bill Martin, Jr's, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, create your own "big book."
Explore Easy Readers. Remember the traditional "I Can Read" books such as Arnold Lobel's, Frog and Toad series. Try a predictable book with repeated elements, story, words, and visuals such as Audrey Wood's, The Napping House. Try letter and word play books with rhyming, alphabets, alliteration, or limericks. Read Stephen T. Johnson's, Alphabet City. Try some rhyme such as Nancy Shaw's, Sheep in a Jeep. Explore poetry including Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Carl Sandburg. Go to the Giggle Poetry website.
Picking Good Books
What books do you remember from when you were growing up? How about Green Eggs & Ham or the new book Hooray for Diffendoofer Day? What makes a good book? How do you pick a good book? Here are a few ideas:
Look for books with meaning. For young children, try Eric Carle, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle.
Look for authors you know. If you liked The Giver by Lois Lowry, try her new book Gathering Blue.
Look for picture books for all ages. Scieska and Smith write lots of "adult" picture books such as The Real Story of the Three Little Pigs, Stinky Cheese Man, and Squids will be Squids.
Look for a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Look for science in books such as the snake in Janell Cannon's, Verdi. Read more about snakes.
Look for fun and interest. If you like robots and computers, try David Kirk, Nova's Ark.
Look for online reading. Turn your ideas about reading upside down. Read short, scary stories at Moonlit Road.
Promoting Reading
Promote reading by going beyond the book. Write in a journal, discuss the book with a friend, or draw a picture. Play with puppets, do a worksheet, or try an activity from Jan Brett's website.
Why is reading so important? We even have special reading weeks and months! What's the big deal?
Real-World Reading. You need reading to survive. If you get behind in reading, you'll have trouble in every subject.
Information Age Reading. You need reading for a career. Internet = Reading. Keeping up in a changing world requires good reading skills.
Communication Reading. You need reading to communicate whether you're writing or reading a letter, email, or report.
Pleasure Reading. You need reading for leisure. It's the only thing you can do on a plane, on the beach, or in a line that doesn't require batteries! You can read anywhere.

Life Long Learning. You need reading for learning. Life is about learning. You need reading for life.

Keys to Reading
The key to reading is knowing yourself, your family, and your students. Look for authors, series, meaning, and fun in reading. Finally, remember the book called Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. Not everyone learns to read or enjoys reading in the same way. Let readers bloom! Find your own roller coaster!
For more ideas about reading, check out my Literature Ladders section of this website. It contains information and ideas to go with many of the books discussed in this article.

 Created by Annette Lamb, 10/01.