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Kat Clarke’s “Project Kindle”

Kat Clarke, a sophomore English and Spanish double major, took a chance on an email she received and spent this past summer doing research that could help shape the future of school reading.

Over Christmas break of her freshman year, Kat got an email from the Boston College Office of Advanced Study Grants encouraging her to apply for a grant. She was really interested, but didn’t know if she could actually take advantage of this opportunity since she was an English major. She couldn’t think of a way she could do research that didn’t involve a lab, but knew she really wanted to try. She emailed one of her high school English teachers and asked for advice. Her teacher suggested looking into children’s literature or digital reading, and she formulated her research idea from there.

Kat remembered that she loved to read when she was growing up, but a lot of her peers did not. She wondered if Nooks or Kindles would help children improve their reading skills, or at least get them excited about reading. Since children in this generation are growing up with technology, she thought that perhaps they would prefer to use some sort of technology while reading.

Kat formulated her proposal, planning on researching whether or not Nooks would get children more excited to read, make a difference in a classroom, and overall, be a logical strategy to implement in classrooms. She submitted her proposal and letter of recommendation, and was given the grant for the upcoming summer.

She set up to conduct her research in her hometown of Rockville, MD at her elementary school, Christ Episcopal. She talked to the director of the school’s summer camp and arranged to come in every day for a couple hours to read with different age groups of children. Every week, she got a different group of kids and chose a different book. She would start off the reading by asking the children questions about the genre of book they were reading. They would then read “popcorn” style, reading for as long as they felt comfortable, and picking another student to pick up where they left off.

Within the first two weeks, Kat knew comprehension wasn’t different between the Nook and a paperback book. She had alternated reading chapters of Harry Potter in the paperback book and the Nook, and noticed the children’s comprehension did not differ.

As the summer progressed, Kat noticed that the children would get really excited about reading from the Nook; some even bragged to their friends about reading from the Nook. When Kat asked the campers why they enjoyed the Nook, they said they liked that they could get whatever book they wanted. They also liked the fact that there are less words on a page in Nooks, and felt less intimidated because they felt like they were reading more.

Although the children were really enthusiastic about reading on the Nook, Kat realized there is a definite cut off for Nooks. For the kids below 2nd grade, the technology would get distracting and would make them more anxious if something went wrong. The ideal age range that Kat found was from 2nd to 8th grade.

Kat decided to do this research the more she realized that her love for reading helped her accomplish so much academically, and realized she wouldn’t be where she is without her strong reading foundation. She wants other children to have this foundation so they can accomplish as much as she has, and after witnessing elementary school children get excited about reading at summer camp, she believes this can actually occur. Kat plans on looking into schools that are doing pilot programs with Nooks to see the results after a year with a certified teacher. She hopes to continue this type of work, and ultimately wants to help other children receive the same education she did.

Kat sent in her paper to the study grant committee two weeks ago, and will present her paper at a symposium in February. We wish her the best of luck and congratulate her on the awesome work she did this summer!


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