The University of Iowa

Using Technology to Motivate Young Readers in the Age of Digitalization

Students using computers for book reports

Children can find motivation to read in using technology to share their thoughts and impressions about a book via a blog post or digital collage accompanied by a written description.


Annika Buell

Second-Grade Teacher, Buford Garner Elementary School, Iowa City Community School District

Posted on: August 27, 2018

Various forms of technology are increasingly present in everyday life. This may be most true for young people, who have video games, television, and the internet constantly available at their fingertips. Rideout (2013) found that 75% of children have access to mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.) at home. That electronic stimuli makes reading a good old-fashioned book not always appealing—especially outside of school. Rideout’s report shows that children from birth to eight years old are spending on average nearly five times as much time using some sort of screen (watching TV, playing video games, using mobile devices, etc.) than they are reading or being read to. At times it can feel like reading is being pitted against technology use as a competitor for children’s time and attention, but it does not have to be that way. Combining technology with reading can help motivate students to pick up a book.

Using Online Platforms to Share Book Reports and Recommendations with Peers and Families

Social media, blogs, and other websites make connecting with others easy. Why not use these platforms to help students connect about reading and share recommendations among each other for future reads? Teachers can create a class book recommendations website for students to post written reviews of books they have read, and browse recommendations from their friends to find their next read. Students could create a video recommendation similar to the Iowa Reading Research Center’s #FridayReads Recommendation videos and post it for classmates and friends to see (see “Supplemental Materials for Families and Teachers” for a guide for making such videos). Gunter (2012) found students enjoyed making these kinds of videos because the students felt the activity was meaningful. Projects like these are relevant to students’ lives in that they are able to put together a product that their peers can find interesting and useful as a source for book recommendations. There are many educational apps available that create private platforms where students in a class can post videos or blogs, view other student’s contributions, and respond to each other’s thoughts and opinions on a book. Teachers are able to monitor students’ posts and comments and can also share students’ web-based work with parents. Young people are constantly communicating with one another digitally, so using these platforms to help students interact with each other about reading is a good way to encourage positive and productive virtual communication.

Encourage Reading for Enjoyment with E-Books and Audiobooks

Outside of school, students fill their free time with a variety of activities. In between extracurricular obligations, they may pull up videos to watch on their tablet or log on to an online gaming system with their friends. As an alternative to these uses of technology, having them try an e-book or audiobook could be a great way to motivate them to read. E-readers give children a wide selection of e-books available at their fingertips. Ciampa (2015) found that students were attracted to e-books because of their familiarity with tablets, and the ability e-books provide to interact with the text in a variety of ways such as through embedded videos, pictures, and interactive graphics. With these features, a book can almost literally come to life for the reader. Teachers and families should use their best judgement about which e-book enhancements are beneficial and good to use, and which may be distracting. Students who need extra support to read a more complicated text can be taught to access the interactive features as educational tools to help themselves understand vocabulary, concepts, and text features.

It should be noted that there is conflicting research on the effects of digital reading on comprehension. Some studies find e-books may negatively affect student learning, while others find no statistical significance for this claim (Niccoli, 2015). However, for a screen-loving child who is reluctant to read, e-books can be motivating. Larson (2015) suggested that children who struggled with reading might be drawn to using e-books as a means of increasing their confidence.

Additionally, audiobooks provide opportunities for students to hear a book read aloud to them with proper phrasing and intonation, which can serve as a model for their own oral reading. Audiobooks give children of all ages a way to enjoy a book that may be too difficult for them to read independently. They can listen while following along in their own copy of the book. Many sites, such as Storyline Online, offer audio and/or video recordings of authors, celebrities, and others reading popular books. Although nothing replaces the importance of actually reading a book aloud or silently without assistance, audiobooks may keep students, especially those who are otherwise reluctant to read, engaged with books in their free time.

Practicing Comprehension by Pairing Books with Movies

For children with a love for cinema, there are many movies available to stream or check out from the library that are based on books. Have students read the book first with the promise of watching the movie after they have finished. After watching the movie, ask the child to compare and contrast the movie and the book. Use prompting questions such as:

  • What was something in the movie that was the same as what you read in the book?
  • What was something in the movie that was different from what you read in the book?
  • How did the difference change the story?

Use these kinds of questions to foster discussion and to help students dig deeper into some of the elements of the text. To support students in generating ideas for this discussion, have students record information in a graphic organizer intended for comparing and contrasting (e.g., Venn Diagram, T-Chart, etc.). See the “Supplemental Materials for Families and Teachers” section below for a graphic organizer for families to use.


Especially for children who are reluctant or struggle to read, incorporating technology into reading activities at school or at home can increase motivation. There are many apps and websites that provide platforms for students to engage with a text in a way that is meaningful and motivating to them (Bonds-Raacke & Raacke, 2008). In a world that increasingly revolves around technology, combining digital resources with reading is a good way to motivate children to read both in school and at home.

Supplemental Materials for Families and Teachers

PDF iconCreating a Book Recommendation Video

This guide provides sentence starters for students in fourth grade and older to formulate thoughts and opinions about a book which they can convey verbally for a book recommendation video. Filming tips for teachers are also provided.

PDF iconBook vs. Movie – Compare and Contrast

This graphic organizer helps children organize their thoughts about the similarities and differences between a book and a movie telling the same story.


Bonds-Raacke, J. M., & Raacke, J. D. (2008). Using tablet PCs in the classroom: An investigation of students’ expectations and reactions. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 35(3), 235-239.

Ciampa, K. (2015). Motivating Grade 1 children to read: Exploring the role of choice, curiosity, and challenge in mobile ebooks. Reading Psychology, 37, 665-705. doi:10.1080/02702711.2015.1105337

Gunter, G. A. (2012). Digital booktalk: Creating a community of avid readers, one video at a time. Computers in the Schools, 29, 135-156. doi:10.1080/07380569.2012.651426

Larson, L. (2015). The learning potential of e-books. Educational Leadership, 72(8), 42-46.

Niccoli, A. (2015, September 28). Paper or tablet? Reading recall and comprehension. EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from

Rideout, V. (2013). Zero to eight: Children's media use in America 2013. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media. Retrieved from