Homer Hickam, Jr.Doubt the magic of the right book for the right K-12 student? Then check out a QuickTime video of Homer Hickam, the small-town West Virginia boy who went on to a career as a rocket engineer as well as a best-selling author.

As high schoolers building actual rockets, Hickam and friends turned to “a book which made all the difference”: Principles of Guided Missile Design–normally used at the Ph.D. level. Not exactly your ordinary high school reading fare. Granted, Hickam and friends were gifted in their own way, but the same concept can apply to “ordinary” students. If we want them to reach their full potential, they need the right content matching their talents and interests–especially books. And e-books, given their built-in economies, are one solution to the problem.

You can see the Hickam video here–scroll down to, “Tell us how Ms. Riley specifically worked with the Rocket Boys to encourage your work in her science classroom.” Notice? Homer’s teacher and school librarian had to go out of their way to order the book, which, if it was like some similar titles at Amazon.com, must not have been cheap.

But what if he hadn’t been so lucky? A well-stocked national digital library system in the TeleRead vein could at least reduce the bureaucratic and/or financial burdens involved here. Of course, books themselves are not panaceas. Good teachers and librarians will inspire students, not just find and provide the books (or teach students how to search for them).


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