THE BLOG

A Teacher's Unlikely Crush (on an eReader)

07/21/2014 06:38 pm ET | Updated Sep 20, 2014
  • Kyle Redford Teacher, Marin Country Day School and Education Editor, Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity

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Photo by Clara Greisman

You know when you fall in love, that feeling that you want to tell everyone you know about it? You figure out ways fit the crush's name into every conversation and find yourself making obscure references and connections to include the crush into all of your interactions?

That's me right now.There are many things that don't make sense about my crush. It doesn't fit my typical profile and has me breaking all my old rules and changing behavioral patterns. I guess I should probably be embarrassed to name the object of my affection, particularly since it is inanimate. But actually, I'm not (another sign that it's really love).

So here it goes: I'm in love with an eReader. No, not merely an eReader: the specific capability of a particular eReader -- The Kindle Fire's Whispersync Immersion Reader, to be exact (I know, a mouthful. But as with all deep crushes, I'm working on a nickname).

My friends and colleagues can't believe it. They've even witnessed me get emotional when I tell them about how my crush has changed my life (my teaching life, that is). Everyone who knows me knows I'm no technophile. While I like and appreciate technology; I certainly don't dream about it... well... at least not until now. Just a few months ago, I found the whole premise of Her (the film about the man who fell in love with his computer's operating system) totally implausible. Now here I am.

And it's not just a crush. It's love, and here is how I know:

1. My crush is like a dream come true. The Immersion Reader brings audio, text and tracking together into one reading experience. I always dreamed of an eReader that integrated these functionalities for my students with dyslexia. My dyslexic students used to have only two choices; either read books that matched their reading ability in order to develop their fluency or read through their ears by listening to audiobooks (yes, the real kind, read by humans, not the synthetic voice of a computer). Those books would be chosen because they matched my students' interests and intellectual level and helped to develop their vocabularies, ideas and love of story. Addressing their various reading needs meant that my dyslexic students were left to read two different kinds of books for very different reasons. It wasn't a very efficient use of their time or energy and it killed any hopes of nurturing real book lovers.

With Immersion Reading, my struggling readers can meet all their objectives with one book -- one device. And as if that alignment isn't exciting enough, Immersion Reading also includes a real-time highlighting function that helps readers track with the story, dramatically improving their reading attention (and providing effective support for my readers who struggle with ADD). When you consider all the independent reading support it provides, the technology almost functions like a virtual reading coach.

Most importantly, ever since my dyslexic and ADD students met my crush, they have become remarkably more passionate and confident readers. They now boast that they can finally read the books they want to read -- the books their friends are reading. Indeed, my children share my crush on Whispersync!

2. I forgive its flaws. You know that inevitable moment when the honeymoon is over and you realize that the object of your affection is not perfect? I am there. There are a few key things I want to change about my eReader. Namely, it is not my type. I am a "Mac" gal. All my personal devices wear the apple and my classroom features iPads. I was always hoping my crush would be from the Apple family (hear that, Apple?), but it is not. Sure, this compatibility issue is inconvenient, but not a deal breaker. As is often the case, my new crush has expanded my world.

3. I dream of future possibilities with my crush. When you love, you dream into the future. You often picture how your relationship is going to look years from now. My new crush is no exception. I love the Whispersync Immersion Reading just the way it is, but I also dream of longer lists of books that have the Immersion Reading capability. Right now, my students and I have a lot of Immersion Reading to do together, but my hope is that one day all books -- at least those with audio equivalents -- will have the Immersion capability.

There is, however, one very unique quality to my crush: it leaves me feeling totally unpossessive. I invite anyone and everyone to share my crush, particularly parents and teachers of struggling readers as well as struggling readers themselves. Seriously, this reading system is so love-worthy it makes me want to bring everyone into the relationship.

P.S. I recently discovered that Learning Ally has introduced a similar synced audio/text option that uses a human voice reader (VOICEtext(h)). I plan to add it to our reading alternatives this fall. It could offer a more cost-effective version of this amazing technology.