Don't worry - I haven't converted to an electronic reader (yet). I still prefer the tangible, tactile pleasure of a good old fashioned book. But I do believe that the technology of the digital age, used well, can be a great enhancement to literacy and reading pleasure. For instance...
"Trouble finding books they like" is one of the top reasons kids say they don't read more, according to Scholastic's recent Kids and Family Reading Report. Two new web sites provide terrific resources in this regard.
Jennifer Brown, children’s editor of the e-newsletter Shelf Awareness, has created the new TwentybyJenny site with the goal of "helping educators and caregivers build a child’s library one book at a time by guiding them to 20 books in each of four age groups (0–3, 4–7, 8–12, and teens)." The site also offers a weekly newsletter and a Twenty blog, which explores book-related themes. Brown focuses on trying to find "a mix of books people might be familiar with, alongside titles they might not have come across before,” as well as books that would appeal to both genders, and different interests and sophistication levels. Her hope is that the lists comprise a good "starter library" for a child, which can then be built upon.
Another great site in this regard - which I've written about here before - is James Patterson's ReadKiddoRead, an invaluable resource for kids as well as parents, caregivers and educators. Patterson's site not only provides scores of recommendations for books sure to engage young readers (or, in Patterson’s words, “great books, cool books, books they would absolutely, positively love… the crème de la crème of reading… very, very special books that kids will gobble up and ask for more”), it also leads young people towards other books and authors that may interest them through the “If You Love This Book, Then Try…” suggestions on each book page. In addition, the site provides reviews, thematic connections, and links to more information about the books and where they can be purchased. Perhaps most valuable, however, is the “Community” section of the site, where members of all ages can connect, discuss topics related to reading, read interviews with childrens book authors and get involved. Here, teachers manage discussion groups with students, reading specialists post blog entries, and parents as well as kids engage in lively discussion, post their reading experiences to forums and groups and get proactive about the role of reading in their lives.
There are also a number of terrific blogs out there with respect to childrens books, many of which are linked to this site. By managing all these with my Google Reader account (which I can then download onto my iPhone - oops, I guess I am reading electronically!) this is a great way to stay current and get new ideas about books my kids might love.
This, I think, is the perfect marriage between the digital world and the world of books - using modern technology to support and enrich the reading experience.