Story Shares – A Digital Library for Teens and Young Adults

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Recently, I participated in a Twitter chat hosted by the International Literacy Association #ILAChat and Sam Patterson (@SamPatue) on the topic of the Association’s latest What’s Hot in Literacy report.  While there, I met the Story Shares team.

Story Shares in their own words, “Story Shares is a non-profit organization devoted to inspiring reading practice and improving literacy skills.”  The organization leverages technology to bring books worth reading to teens and young adults who struggle. As most readers of Literacy Beat who work with adolescents know, finding material that is not overwhelming is a challenge.

Story Shares Home Page Screenshot

Story Shares Home Page

Story Shares has created an online space that provides opportunities for writers to publish their work in a variety of genres and fills the need of teen readers for something meaty but not impossible to read.

Romeo and Me

Story Shares Digital Book

The online book collection is searchable by the usual indicators (author, title)
but also by interest level and three readability indices.  The books are easy to navigate by chapter and by scrolling. Controls include a bookmark, a word lookup tool that brings up definitions of challenging words, and a tool to mark a book for reading later. Some readers prefer books on paper, so Story Shares makes some of their collection available for purchase as a paperbound book.

Because some readers benefit from hearing the words of a book read aloud, the Story Shares team has built in a text-to-speech reader. As the reader speaks the words, the written words are highlighted on the page.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words for iPad. Author: Ruth Chasek

I sampled the books on my computer and on my iPad. Both worked perfectly with the books on Story Shares.

For authors who wish to write for the teen and young adult audience, a user-friendly interface allows the writer to focus on the narrative and not the technology.  I tried it and found the graphic user interface (GUI) very easy to use.

Because Story Shares is a nonprofit organization that serves students around the world, they also appreciate donations. Just click here to help them out.

3 Responses

  1. Although from about the age of 12 or 13 I had a personal computer in my room, many of the students in my classroom are more technology savvy than I am. They have had technology at their finger tips since the day they were born through cell phones, tablets, electronic toys, home computers, video games, and even at school through various ways. Students are comfortable with technology and it interests them. I have found that if I have an assignment that has to be completed on the computer, the students are always more interested in the assignment and their grades are even better.
    I enjoy the idea of students being able to read books on the Story Shares platform for several reasons. The search engine allows them to find books they are interested in, it allows them to read online, and there are even different ways to differentiate through the program. My favorite feature is that it will read the book to them online while highlighting each word. Many times, my students comprehend a book that is read to them better than a book they have to read on their own. Story Shares will allow them to listen to these books that interest them.
    The idea of an online reading platform makes me excited for my students. It will help to bring the love of reading back into the classroom and their lives. The more a student reads, the better reader they become and it helps them in their life-long learning.

  2. Although I teach in elementary education, my brother teaches students in grades 6-8 at our local middle school. One aspect that he sees every day is that of students being unable to have their educational materials meet their educational and developmental level. Often the books the school provides on struggling students’ levels cover topics that are too childlike to match their interests. This program seems to be an effective method for combating this issue. I like that book topics meet adolescent students’ interest levels, but the program also provides tools like text-to-speech to help struggling readers. Also, it is important that teachers continue to incorporate online and digital resources for reading within the classroom, as state mandated tests like the Georgia Milestones Assessment are delivered through a computer interface. Despite the widespread availability of technology in this age, it is not uncommon for students in high poverty areas to continue to not have consistent access to digital tools in which to gain experience in these areas. Students should be practicing using tools like those provided within this program such as scrolling, bookmarking, and highlighting text in order to prepare to use these tools effectively during the test. Most importantly, we as educators know that reading about topics that interest students is a largely motivating factor in practicing literacy. This program seems like a great method to address each of these issues.

  3. Teens today are very tech savvy and a program like Story Shares would appeal to teen readers. It is often difficult to find texts for adolescent students that are on their reading level that appeal to their interests or support the instructional topics they are learning in class. The user friendly search option will allow both teachers and students find books of interest that support the literacy journey of the teen. Students need many different types of texts to fully explore a topic. Teachers must find literature that supports learning goals but is also accessible to teens. The text to speech option supports struggling readers, dyslexic students and well as English Language Learners. This feature will allow students to read books that may be too difficult for them decode on their own but are in their comprehension ability range. The usability of the site will increase student participation in activities. Highlighting the main idea or an example of alliteration on a computer can be motivating for a student. This program has so many positive applications. It is important that teachers know how to incorporate online technology into our classrooms. Student motivation is a big predictor of future reading success. Programs such as Story Shares build upon teen’s love of technology.

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