Nooks find niche at Chelmsford school

This winter, some Parker Middle School students looking to curl up with a book will have just the Nook to do it. That’s Nook with a capital “N” – not a cozy corner to curl up in, but a Barnes Noble gadget capable of opening worlds.

Technically called the Nook Simple Touch, the electronic readers delivered to Tara Trainor’s classroom last month can carry a year’s reading in a package less than a quarter-inch thick. Trainor’s students have been using the device to read and mark up novels assigned in class, and Trainor hopes to make textbooks available on the device, as well.

“It’s funner to read Nooks than boring old books,” said student Marina Boulos.

“You can see why it’s called the Nook Simple Touch,” said Nathan Sayer. “It’s simple to use.”

Using the Nook, you can highlight passages, bookmark pages, enter notes in the margins and customize font, letter size and background, but for many students the word lookup feature is the most exciting: Tap an unfamiliar term and instantly you’re reading the definition, without ever putting down the text. It’s less disruptive for students, Trainor said, and it’s a discreet way to check the meanings of words without worrying about being judged.

“The Nook gives you the enjoyment of something electronic, but you’re still reading,” said Stephanie Tatara.

According to Trainor, kids who were once uninterested in reading now finish classroom activities early and ask to pick up a Nook. This is precisely why she first began researching the devices, Trainor said — she is always on the lookout for ways to make kids want to read. In addition to making reading easier, the Nook provides free access to a wealth of classic texts, as well as the option to purchase mainstream novels and newer releases.

“How about this one?” Trainor asked Friday afternoon, before reading a book summary off the smartboard at the front of the room. The summary promised all the trappings, including mystery, adventure and a cute girl. “Romance!” Trainor declared gleefully, to the hoots and applause of her students.

“Are there pictures?” one student asked. The negative response was met with groans.

 Reading was fun for Trainor’s students long before the Nook entered the scene, they revealed. Trainor does all the funny voices, includes sound effects like the plane crashing in the book “Hatchet,” and isn’t afraid of cranking up the volume when the moment seems to call for it. Trainor also invites kids to take turns reading aloud, sometimes in “spirit reading” sessions where students start and stop reading when they please, picking up where the last reader left off.

“Ms. Trainor is awesome,” half a dozen students agreed.

“This is why I want to take all my kids home with me,” Trainor confided.

The result: Trainor’s kids are now avid readers. Favorite books include the Hunger Games and Harry Potter series, and favorite reading locations range from bedrooms to comfortable couches to a spot with the doggy gate up to ensure uninterrupted communion with the text. Many students affirmed reading is important not just in the classroom, but in life.

Reading helps when you’re excited, said Mailk Alwani. It helps with everything, Paul Malone added – it makes you smarter. The better you read, the better you write, Kate Gilet elaborated.

“Hours and hours of entertainment,” said Ethan Andrews.

Cassie Merrill added, “You can read anywhere.”

 “Reading is like a movie in your mind,” Katelyn Ledwith suggested.

Eventually, Trainor said, other classrooms may pick up the Nooks, and the devices may be sent home with students. Once Trainor figures out how to link all the Nooks, she will embed questions into the text and ask students to input answers, as either a homework assignment or class participation exercise.

“No more will we sit and stare while other children do all the work!” Trainor proclaimed, to students’ giggles and groans.

Asked for advice for kids still struggling with reading, Mailk Alwani had a simple answer:

“Tell your parents to buy a Nook.”

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