Books are best in young people’s hands

I love taking pictures of bookshelves. That’s because books are beautiful. Here’s one:

And another:

Aren’t they beautiful? I think so.

The only problem with books on bookshelves is that they’re on bookshelves, rather than in students’ hands. When books are on bookshelves, rather than in students’ hands, they’re not immediately accessible to students to read.

The Kindle Classroom Project believes that books should be universally accessible to students. Books should be mobile and ready to read. Like this:

By no means do I argue against homes, classroom libraries, school libraries, public libraries, bookstores, and other institutions that include bookshelves. After all, as a public, we do need to see physical books as part of our environment. There should be large, public displays of books — in order to celebrate books and what’s contained in them.

But if we’re really interested in having young people read books — especially young people who do not have easy access to books — we need to bring those books to them.

Books should be mobile and ready to read.

That’s what the KCP does. Students receive a Kindle and a library of 705 (and counting!) books. They get to keep their Kindle 24 hours a day for as long as they like until they graduate. This means reading can happen at school, on the bus, at home — and everywhere in between.

The access doesn’t stop there. Let’s say a student finishes a book at home and wants to start another one, but the new book isn’t yet part of the Kindle Library. Thanks to the generosity of KCP supporters, the student requests the book on the new KCP website, and we buy it immediately after receiving an email notification. It’s a little like reading magic.

The old way of promoting reading — by putting books on bookshelves and inviting students to approach them — has done little to change the landscape of which young people read vs. which do not. We need a new and better way — one that brings good books to young people, puts good books in their hands, and says, “Here you go. Please enjoy.”

Note: This was originally published at Iserotope. The Kindle Classroom Project now serves 919 students in Oakland and San Francisco.

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