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Reading: Old School with a New Twist!

By Jennifer Degenhardt and Theresa Marrama

~4 min read

There are so many different angles on which to write about the state of present-day education.

This isn’t going to be that kind of read.

Phew 😅, right?

Instead, you are invited to think back to what YOU loved best about school when you were a student: spelling contests, a game of foursquare at recess, creating dioramas for social studies (or the 21st century equivalent), or maybe it taco Tuesdays in the cafeteria.

For authors Jennifer Degenhardt and Theresa Marrama, what they loved the most was any time they could read in class something of their own choosing. For them, there was nothing like getting lost in a story with imagery they could create on their own. It didn’t matter if a classmate was sniffling or the teacher was rifling through papers, or the custodian was sweeping outside the classroom with the swoosh and click sound of her enormous broom. None of the outside world mattered. What kept them rapt were the words in front of them.

Yes, folks. Before Neflix, Hulu and YouTube, there were…BOOKS!

The good news is, they still exist! Sure, some variations on the original bound versions have morphed as technology has advanced, but they still provide the same benefits. Simply, people learn through story. And the way Jennifer and Theresa see it, there’s no better way to learn than through reading. As world language teachers, too, they also think it’s an incredible way to provide lots of input for students: win-win!

In short, reading is the foundation of all learning, and…it’s FUN!

  • Increases vocabulary

  • Builds confidence while learning at one's own pace

  • Helps with memory

  • Increases comprehension

  • Develops critical thinking

  • Improves analytical skills

  • Develops emotions and fosters empathy

  • Broadens horizons

  • Assists with writing skills

  • Hones focus and concentration

Now imagine all of the above plus even more skills while reading in a different language:

  • Increases fluency

  • Presents idiomatic expressions

  • Teaches sentence structure

  • Introduces nuances of the target language

  • Allows for the focus on ideas, not just words

So, with a combined library of 150+ comprehensible and compelling novels in five languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish), these teacher/authors set forth to get their stories online so that so many more teachers and students can have access to them.

Digilangua, the online platform that houses Jennifer and Theresa’s books (and other authors’ too!) was born during the pandemic. This website - and it’s so much more than just a website! - offers many features for teachers and students to help all parties with language input, executive functioning skills, evaluation, and the best: reading, which is really dreaming with eyes wide open.

In addition to the digital flip-books with audio (produced with very cool sound effects and music!), students can also hone their annotation skills with the note taking, highlighting and drawing elements, record audio notes to themselves, bookmark noteworthy pages and monitor their reading time. Teachers have control over what books students are able to access, can create assessments right in the platform, collect audio samples from students - all while assigning a class novel or using the library for free choice reading. Jennifer and Theresa use it to lessen their planning, and you can too.

Imagine giving a writing assessment and having students use vocabulary and phrases (correctly!) that they have acquired through the reading of the comprehensible novels in the Digilangua library. Jennifer and Theresa say there is nothing like it! And their students love it, too.

“I love how I can read AND listen to the story at the same time. It really helps with my comprehension,” said one student. “Reading days are my favorite. I look forward to those days the most in French,” said another.

Do Jennifer and Theresa (a.k.a. the DigiGals) think you should try Digilangua? Absolutely. But what they really want for all of their world language colleagues is to think and or rethink about how they can use reading with their students. The DigiGals think that reading is a habit that should be encouraged across all disciplines; in world languages, too. Get your students’ noses in books however you can. Remember: readers are leaders.

You can sign up here for a free trial so you can check out all of the fabulous, leveled comprehensible readers on the platform. The DigiGals will also send you an estimate to provide to your bursar. And, if you mention in your free trial request where you read this article, we’ll provide you a 10% discount on the estimate. Read on!

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