Lessons from a grizzly bear...

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While reading a book about inspiring students to become lifelong readers, recently, I came to the inevitable claim that video games are preventing our children from spending time reading. There were many statistics about the number of aliterate people in our country. Aliterate people are capable of reading, but choose not to. While I actually loved the ideas in the book, I had to wonder if the research takes into account the number of people who are constantly connected to their mobile devices. How does one use texting, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or even YouTube without reading? I suspect there is more reading taking place than ever before in history if you acknowledge the time spent on social media. As for video games, I have an XBox 360 Kinect system in my classroom and had the perfect example yesterday of a video game actually inspiring reading. My current class read aloud is Never Say Die by Will Hobbs. Stopping at a cliff hanger leaving the main character leaping into a raging river to escape an angry grizzly bear in the Canadian wilderness, caused my second graders to plead for more. They were launched into speculation about whether or not the bear would follow him into the river. Imagine their delight at the end of the day when we used the National Geographic TV Kinect game to investigate grizzlys! They not only watched, listened, and learned more about the mighty bears, they also took turns becoming grizzly bears as they interacted with the content. The best moment, however, was watching an elk escape capture by a grizzly by diving into a river and swimming away. The bear followed along the shore, but did not go into the water. The connection was strong for the kids, and I guarantee they all want to read more of the story and spend more time researching grizzly bears... Games and books do not have to be mutually exclusive of one another. Each has a place in a classroom as a tool. The important thing is to have just the right tools available when they are needed to inspire, extend, and engage children in the joy of learning.

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