“Immersion Reading” on the Kindle

It should come as no surprise to the world that Amazon is bringing forth new means of interacting with their Kindle products. To be honest, I normally skip over these articles because I don’t own a Kindle and could care less what they offer. On the other hand, I came across two articles today I’d like to discuss; one was about Amazon’s new “Immersion Reading” function on it’s Kindle, and the other was about a German E-book retailer named Txtr that is releasing a new e-reader for only $13.

Amazon’s new “Immersion Reading” function allows Kindle owners to read along on their Kindles while the stories are being professionally narrated on audio book. The Kindle will even highlight the text as it is being read aloud to you by the likes of Kenneth Branagh or Elijah Wood. Personally, this new function doesn’t strike me as a very fun or exciting way to experience a book, but it does strike me as one of the most valuable teaching tools for literacy to come about in ages. The word “immersion” itself conjures up thoughts about language acquisition and digital-age literacy skills. Sadly, the article doesn’t mention any plans to take this new technology into our primary and secondary education systems. It does, however, mention that this new function is only available on the newest and most expensive Kindle products, which isn’t surprising.

What is surprising to me is that another company, Txtr, is able to produce surprising numbers of basic E-readers and sell them for only $13. Txtr’s Beagle has no charger or cables, and can hold five books at a time, approximately how many books are taught in the average high school English class every year. At a time when our public education is floundering, a $13 E-reader seems to be a legitimate and viable option for taking literacy education digital. Perhaps I’m being wishful or just ignorant of the cost of technological developments, but why can’t we find a way to provide our schools with cheap E-readers that have the same “Immersion Reading” functionality as Amazon’s Kindle? In California only 3% of the English Language Learners are reading at a “Proficient” level. According to state tests, only 28% of our native English speakers are reading at the “Proficient” level. In a world wholly submerged in digitized entertainment, the only thing most of these kids don’t have access to in a digital format is books.

The cruel irony of the whole situation is that Amazon is providing 20 free E-books with the “Immersion Reading” function to owners of their new $159 Kindle Fire or Kindle HDs. And what books are they giving away for free? Just twenty classics that are studied in every single public high school in the nation, such as: Frankenstein, Huckleberry Finn, and Gulliver’s Travels.







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