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Dennis Ain't Gonna Like This!

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From the WaPo Book Club's Ron Charles:

A few years ago, I accidentally left my Kindle at a bus stop on Santorini. I console myself by imagining that some Greek goddess is enjoying Madeline Miller's “Circe” and dozens of other titles stored on that e-reader. 

Alas, most old Kindles don’t end up on an isle in the Aegean Sea. 

That’s where Mark Isero comes in. About 11 years ago, Isero founded the Kindle Classroom Project, a nonprofit that cleans up donated e-readers and gives them to classrooms in the San Francisco area. So far, the group has put more than 2,600 Kindles in the hands of thousands of kids. (Amazon has provided tech help to the project; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) 

Isero thought of the idea when he noticed his ninth graders didn’t have access to books because the school didn’t have a library. His first step was to create a classroom library, but there weren’t enough copies of the titles that kids wanted to read. In desperation, he handed out a couple of Kindles. “They thought it was great,” Isero tells me, “because they could really just find any book that they wanted.” The Kindle Classroom Project was born. 

The organization maintains a companion fund that purchases e-books that students request. Those titles remain permanently in the project’s ever-growing e-book library. They’re never lost, they never wear out, and they can be read by up to six people at once. “We found that students have really good taste in what’s popular,” Isero says. “And sure enough, once one student says, ‘Hey, I want a book,’ then their friends and other students at the school start reading it as well.”

Isero has no interest in replacing physical books, but he’s noticed that e-readers are particularly effective with so-called “reluctant readers” in middle school. “They may have had years of shame as far as their reading level or what kinds of books that they like to read,” he says. “Especially in those middle grades, they want to continue developing their own interest and passion and identity, but they may also want to have some safety.” The Kindle provides a level of privacy that a physical book doesn’t. 

Instant access may be the most important quality. But being able to increase the text size, access a built-in dictionary, employ the text-to-speech feature and use a special font designed for readers with dyslexia also makes the Kindle attractive for some students. 

Isero’s group cleans the devices and restores their factory settings to scrub away the original owners’ account information. If you’d like to donate a Kindle, follow the instructions here. Santorini is lovely, but for an old e-reader a classroom is paradise.

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