Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Giver

The-GiverMy favorite book of all time is The Giver by Lois Lowry. There, I’ve written it down. I tell the students in my children’s literature course every year that it is my favorite book, but I’ve never written it down. There is something about writing one’s thoughts and ideas that makes them more indelible. Why is it important that I write it down now? Because in August of this year, the movie version of the book will come out and I want to have written that I love The Giver. I don’t know if I will feel the same way about the movie. Often, that is not the case. Even with the best of intentions, children’s and young adult books-to-movies don’t always translate well, especially for those who love them.

For example, the first Harry Potter movie came out when my son was in elementary school (yes, he is a child of the HP generation). I remember talking about going to the movie when we were driving in the car and him telling me that he didn’t want to see it because it would ruin the images in his head. Smart boy. However, we did see the movie. In fact, we held a Harry Potter party beforehand and all his friends dressed up as characters in the book. Then, we loaded them up and went together to the movie. I sat at the end of the row of kids so I could hear and see their expressions. It was priceless! “It didn’t happen like that!” and “S/he doesn’t look like that!” were heard often. Let’s just say children are not as tolerant of artistic license as adults.

Back to The Giver. It was written in 1993 and awarded the Newbery Medal in 1994, 20 years ago. Yet, it is timeless. Here is the description by the Library of Congress: Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. The Giver is classified as science fiction and is often called the quintessential dystopian novel, but it is as much about the past as it is about the future. It is impossible to finish the book without having more questions about the world we live in than you started with and that has caused the book to be the eleventh most challenged book of the 1990s and the 23rd most challenged book of the 2000s.

I found out recently that I am not alone in my love of the book. Several children’s and young adult authors and educators came together to share their thoughts in a video titled, Memories of The Giver. The video is a fitting tribute that expresses heartfelt and well deserved praise. I read The Giver aloud to my son when he was old enough to understand. He said the book changed him forever. So, of course, when I found out about the movie, I asked him if he wanted to see it. Can you guess how he replied?

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Digital Textbooks: What Features Do Students Like?

I have been working with my university students this semester to make the transition from a print book to an etextbook. For many, it’s their first time reading an enhanced digital textbook, one that links directly to the web and contains embedded video and audio clips.

An enhanced digital textbook gives students the opportunity to access information in a variety of ways, through reading, listening, and viewing. Different from an etextbook—usually a static pdf version of a print textbook—an enhanced digital textbook contains live links to online resources and text-embedded video and audio clips, thus creating a multimedia personalized book-reading experience. My students describe the following features as important to their digital reading.

  • Note sharing – creating notes within the text and sharing these with others in our class
  • Sticky notes – creating personal sticky notes within the text to help remember or return to information
  • Highlighter – highlighting important information
  • Search capabilities – searching the entire text using key terms and the search box
  • Tabbed sections – viewing and moving to specific sections of the chapter by scrolling through a list and clicking
  • Pop-up definitions – clicking on key vocabulary words to see a definition
  • Review questions – pausing at strategic points in the text to check comprehension
  • Videos and podcasts – viewing and listening to the words of teachers and children as a way to bring teaching to life

My students’ preferences are similar to those of the students reported in the work of Lotta Larson (2013), who asked preservice teachers to read a children’s novel on their own device (e.g., smart phone, laptop, tablet) for a language arts methods course. Larson’s students identified their use of the following features to personalize their ebook reading experience.

  • Font size              63%
  • Highlight              84%
  • Notes                    57%
  • Bookmarks         78%
  • Dictionary            47%
  • Search                  31%
  • Internet               8%
  • Brightness           10%

Some of these features mimic similar features in print textbooks. The search capability is similar to an index, pop-up definitions are like a glossary, and students have been highlighting and making notes in their texts for a long time. But when these features can be accessed with a swipe or click and are coupled with media and live hyperlinks embedded within the text, reading becomes a rich, vivid, layered, personalized process of making meaning.

Larson, L. C. (2012/2013). It’s time to turn the digital page: Preservice teachers explore e-book reading. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(4), 280–290.


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