Lighting a Spark for Reading

I was quite impressed with this advert for the Kindle Reader from Amazon when it appeared during prime-time TV on Saturday night. It features a number of children extolling the virtues of reading, and seems to send out a very positive message to other kids. Even this sceptical viewer was feeling quite uplifted, especially as it appeared during the commercial break in one of our most popular television talent shows, a spectacle which often reminds me of the classic Groucho Marx quote: “I find television very educating. Whenever somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Predictably, it wasn’t long before the advert, rather than the show, was the subject of a conversation on Twitter, where one perceptive viewer/tweeter was quick to point out that it appeared to reinforce the commonly-held view that girls read and boys………well……..usually don’t. I must admit that I hadn’t noticed this on first viewing so I went back to check. What I discovered was that there are two versions of the advert, one for the UK and another for the US market, and while in the US version, there is more or less an equal number of boys and girls, in the UK version girls outnumber boys by approximately two to one. This in itself raises a number of interesting questions.

Are Amazon aware of differences in reading habits, or was the difference in the adverts purely accidental?

Is the perception (or indeed the reality) that girls read and boys don’t, only a British thing?

Are there real differences between reading habits in the USA and the UK?

Are the adverts themselves likely to reinforce  or challenge the stereotypes around reading?

Is reading on a mobile device more likely to appeal to boys rather than girls?

What are the likely long-term implications – for readers and teachers – of reading from screens instead of paper books?

I have also uploaded the US version of the advertisement here so that you can judge for yourself. If nothing else, I think showing both versions to your class would be a great starter for discussion, along with the questions I have raised. If you are really ‘up for it’, as they say on X-Factor, having your students make their own version – with Kindle readers or ‘real’ books, or indeed a variety of reading materials – has the potential to be a very worthwhile project. Just think of the creative buzz as they write their scripts (I love reading because……….), choose the best ‘actors’, pick their favourite books, seek out the best locations and bring the whole thing together. As an added bonus, there’s a real ‘job’ for everyone  in the class and a vested interest in making it work. Lights! Camera! Literacy in Action!

Further Reading: Learners as Producers blogpost by Steve Wheeler.