How Can Technology Improve Literacy Skills?


I spend most of my lunchtime in my school library with my friends. It’s a lovely place to be, warm, cosy and it doesn’t smell bad like the common room. The other day was a bit weird because most of my friends had gone home, all except for my friend Mishka. We were reading through the Ofsted report which had just been published, and giggling because… I don’t know, it just seemed funny at the time.

The librarian came up to us, and at first we thought we were going to be kicked out for making too much noise. But she seemed to think we were waiting to do “reading club”, where sixth-formers mentor younger years who struggle with literacy. I’m not a mentor, but I thought I’d ‘play along’ and see what would happen.

There was a girl sitting opposite us who had been watching us joke about the Ofsted report. She looked really bored. I asked her who was her mentor and she said she didn’t have one, so I said I’d read with her.

I asked her what subjects she liked, to which she gave me a blank face. “I hate school.”

“Do you like reading?” I asked.

“No… I mean, I don’t like reading to people, I don’t know why.”

I never enjoyed reading to people when I was younger, I guess because I felt embarrassed when I got the words wrong. I asked her if she read the paper, which she said she didn’t.

The library has lots of daily papers including the Sun, the Telegraph and the Guardian, so I brought over the Guardian, and showed her the different sections it had. I then asked her to look at the pages and read me the bits she wanted to read. She seemed happy to have someone to talk to about things that interested her, and I think this really increased her confidence, making her see that reading doesn’t stop at books.

I think the problem with the reading club is that the students see the club as a chore. Perhaps they are even made to feel stupid for having to come, and this can bring down their attitude towards learning. It’s like being forcing a child to eat a particular type of food. They’ll hate it because of this! But a better way of getting children to eat a particular food is to make it seem like it’s their idea to eat it (or to mash it up inside something else so they don’t realise they’re eating it!)

I think that the Internet, is a great way of ‘mashing up’ these things. New media has a reputation of being bad for literacy. But encouraging children with lower literacy skills to, for example, subscribe to the blogs of people they’re interested in, or add feeds to their personal page, can only improve their reading skills and reduce the bad feelings that some children have with reading. If I had my way, I would encourage every student in my school to maintain a page with feeds from news sites and sites they find interesting.

It’s a simple solution, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

I worry that schools struggle to keep up with the new technology. In many cases they are scared of implementing it in case it is misused, despite the opportunities it offers, which I find difficult to comprehend!