Assignment: Education-Getting "Nooked" on Reading

"I don't think anything will ever replace the sound of a book opening and the smell. A trip through the library... that's pretty irreplaceable; pretty sacred ground," said Kevin Bonnar, Eagle Bluff Elementary 2nd grade teacher.

For many people, that statement is true. But when budgets are tight and you're a teacher trying to create a love of reading among students, you start to think creatively.

"It was just really a question of how do we put as many books as possible in the hands of our students," said Bonnar.

This little piece of technology, called an e-reader or a Nook, is the answer.

"We got a lot of books and we also got a new form of technology to capture students attention and get them excited about reading," said Bonnar.

Mr. Bonnar, along with the four other members of his 2nd grade team, received a $900 grant from the Onalaska Foundation for Educational Excellence to buy four e-readers. The students started using the technology in January and it's been a big hit.

"It was a good piece of electronic," said Bryce Hoeft. "It's better than a DS."

Which is quite a statement coming from this current generation of tech-savvy kids. The teachers are just as thrilled, but for a different reason.

"Some of the lower books have that option of having it read to them which is really nice because the students encourage them to listen to it first and then try the option of just reading it by themselves," said Megan Hollnagel, Eagle Bluff Elementary 2nd grade teacher. "So, they've already heard it and now they're going to read it on their own."

"Second grade is such a foundation for reading," said Bonnar. "In kindergarten and first grade, they start to gather a lot of the reading skills and the phonics and the sight words and they really develop the base for reading. But in second grade, it really changes from a how to read to a I love to read or a I like to read."

And as this interest in reading grows, the 2nd grade teachers at Eagle Bluff Elementary will be able to meet the demand in a new way while staying on budget.

"We can probably run the whole program this year on free books," said Bonnar. "A lot of the classic books are free now, and there's web sites that provide the books for free. And through the local libraries, we can check out e-pub books."

And according to Mr. Bonnar, none of this would have been possible without the grant.

"I think schools are facing tough decisions with budgeting right now," said Bonnar. "And as a community, we really need to come together to support our children and to support the schools. And to have a foundation stand out like that and be so willing to give and to promote fresh ideas and teachers that are taking chances to reach those 21st century learners."

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