Cell phone book clubs as literacy-boosters and more: A video and a preview of a forthcoming post

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Update: Go here for the promised post laying out the cell phone book club vision in detail.

BluLifePureScreen2Who says it must be just a Kindle or iPad world when it comes to e-book reading? Or a Nexus 7 one?

Cell phones are big for Internet access among many young people, members of minorities, and the poor, as well as women. How can we get phone fans to read books on them, not just text each other and Facebook away?

An opportunity for libraries and schools here?

The ongoing rise of phablets, large cell phones with almost tablet-sized screens, bodes well for phones as e-book readers. Pictured is the five-inch screen of my Blu Life Pure displaying dialogue from New Grub Street. The photo really doesn’t convey the sharpness or contrast of the screen. Click here for a somewhat better view. More obscure vendors—I won’t vouch for them—already sell unlocked phones with less advanced five-inchers for as little as $80 or so. A few years from now, their displays will look just as spiffy.

Cell phone book clubs, anyone? Especially if they can foster tech savvy and community along the way and be both virtual and face to face? And, no, we’re not talking about New Grub Street for typical participants—that’s just a favorite of mine. Young adult novels and lots of good nonfiction of interest to the same readers would be more like it.

Later this month, LibraryCity will publish a detailed post on the cell phone book club concept, after first running a related commentary on the one-tablet-per-student project at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia (thumbs up!).

DrHooverVideoScreenShotA few more basics about the proposed cell phone book clubs are in text accompanying a LibraryCity video. Watch Dr. Elizabeth Hoover, chief technology officer for the public schools in Alexandria, share her enthusiasm for the general idea.

Likewise seeing possibilities is Aixa Dengate. A streetwise special-ed teacher of mostly Hispanic origins, she is a passionate advocate for English language learners—thousands of them live in Northern Virginia. The cell phone book club vision has been developed with multicultural needs in mind.

bluelifeadThis new approach to literacy may or may not be right for your local library. All kinds of factors should be considered such as the percentage of cell phone users—high in Alexandria, even among the children of low-income people—and the nature of existing library programs.  But read the forthcoming post before making up your mind. It mentions not only the pros of cell phones but also the cons. Learn about a promising software app that could restrict your daughter or son’s Facebooking but allow downloads of classics from Project Gutenberg.

As for the Alexandria public library system, it will release a general needs study and meanwhile has not reached a decision on the vision of cell phone book clubs. One good sign is that Lynda Rudd, technical services manager for the system, loves to read books on her phone.

Ideally in the near future, lots and lots of kids and  parents will be doing the same. Paper books have their positives, and if people want to bring them to in-person meetings of the cell phone book clubs, then great! But other than your keys or wallet or purse, just what object are you most likely to have with you most of the time when allowed? While I’ve made the point before, it bears repeating. I just wish that academics would spend less time on the subtler points of paper vs. electrons and more time pondering the need for books to be ubiquitous, in one form or another.

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