Thursday, March 20, 2014

Making Multimedia Connections with Books

Recently I was invited to present at a conference of the Northwest Association of Independent Schools on connections between books and technology. Perhaps because I’m a writer married to a technology guy, I see the potential for a rich marriage between books and multimedia resources on a given topic.

For one thing, because of the Internet, students can get a behind-the-scenes view of the research and writing that went into a book.  Websites, Facebook pages, and blogs can (miraculously, I think) connect students directly with authors. Many authors have websites (try the author’s first and last or do a google search by using the author’s name and the word “author”). Author websites also often contain links that can deepen students’ understanding of a book or topic. 

For example, after reading Muckrakers by Ann Bausum, they can stop by her website and click on the "photo research" link for an interactive tutorial on how to conduct photo research using the online collections of the Library of Congress.

After reading Bausum’s Unraveling Freedom, they can visit the page for that book and click on the "political cartoons" link to begin an interactive session about decoding political cartoons, using six cartoons from World War I.

Many authors also have Facebook pages which can give readers insights into the on-going life of writers, updates on developments related to their books, and play-by-play descriptions of their current work on new writing projects. (I’m just getting mine going at Some even write blogs or contribute to group blogs like this one. (Try googling the author’s name and the word “blog,” or check author websites, which will have links to their blogs.)

Many nonfiction authors write about current topics that are still unfolding after the book has been published. The internet can continue the story.  For instance, after reading Loree Griffin Burns’ The Hive Detective, students can watch a TED talk about the plight of the honeybee or learn about pollinator conservation at the Xerces Society’s website. Likewise,
after reading Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal, students can check out what’s happening with the company now at or read recent articles about the company at

After reading my book, The Mighty Mars Rovers: The incredible adventures of Spirit and Opportunity, students can explore what the rover Opportunity is up to now (10 years after landing!) at JPL’s website, which includes regular mission updates, press releases, photos and videos; and follow the newest rover Curiosity, too.

And after reading one of my volcano books—Volcano Rising; Will it Blow? or Eruption! -- students can learn more about current on-going eruptions at Earthweek; Volcano Discovery, which includes a map of recent eruptions and  webcams at active volcanoes; and Smithsonian’sGlobal Volcanism Program, which has both weekly updates of volcanic activity and an amazing searchable database of past and current eruptions.

Think this only relates to current events? Think again.  Fascinating additional reading and other resources such as audio, films and websites related to American history, 1492 and onward, can be found on the website of the Zinn Ed Project, which is searchable by theme, time period, document type and reading level. You can also search by book. For instance, the entry for Gretchen Woelfle’s Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, ( links to actual court records from the lawsuit Mumbet brought against her owners to win her freedom.

Multimedia experiences can bring a book to life. After reading A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, students can visit thehome online. They can view a slideshowfrom the New York Times about the caretaking of the home, which Emerson bought in 1835; the site includes interior shots of the home, including the rocking horse in the playroom and Emerson's hat, hanging on the wall. To dig even deeper into Emerson’s life, readers can go to an online exhibit by the Concord Free PublicLibrary with photos and essays about Emerson, which also features many primary source documents.

If you want to offer your students a multimedia experience, most likely you don’t have to do the research on the best resources yourself. Many nonfiction authors include a list of the best multimedia resources in the back matter of their books or on their websites. Check them out – and send your students to them, too. You’ll both be enriched by the experience.

Elizabeth Rusch

1 comment:

Tina Cho said...

Excellent ideas for adding to the book through media. Thanks!