Resource spotlight: the digital age, short stories, and Actively Read

February 20th, 2013

Last week, the New York Times noted that short stories are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, at least in part due to the Internet and new digital options that make sharing and reading short stories easier. 

The Times reports:

“It is the culmination of a trend we have seen building for five years,” said Cal Morgan, the editorial director of Harper Perennial Originals, who until last year ran a blog called Fifty-Two Stories, devoted to short fiction. “The Internet has made people a lot more open to reading story forms that are different from the novel, and you see a generation of writers very engaged in experimentation.”

In recent decades the traditional outlets for individual short stories have dwindled, with literary magazines closing or shrinking. But the Internet has created an insatiable maw to feed. . . .

“The single-serving quality of a short narrative is the perfect art form for the digital age,” said [Amber] Dermont, whose collection is due out next month. “Stories are models of concision, can be read in one sitting, and are infinitely downloadable and easily consumed on screens.”

Stories are also perfect for the digital age, she added, because readers “want to connect and want that connection to be intense and to move on.” That is, after all, what a short story is all about.

Mr. Morgan said that years of editing short fiction for his blog showed him that digital communication was influencing writers who are just coming of age.

“The generation of writers out of college in the last few years has been raised to engage with words like no generation before,” he said. “Our generation was raised on passive media like television and telephones; this generation has been engaged in writing to each other in text messages on a 24-hour basis. I think it has made them bolder and tighter.”

Another such digital platform—created specifically for the classroom—is Actively Read, which integrates teachers’ questions and content with the stories that students read. By embedding questions or comments from teachers within the texts, and then asking students to answer the questions or to provide their own comments before they continue reading, Actively Learn helps students develop habits of reading texts closely and deeply. 

We have recently partnered with Actively Read to offer our ebook on “The Meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day” in this format. The ebook is perfect for classrooms exploring Black History Month, and it compiles over 40 speeches, songs, and articles from authors such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Zora Neale Hurston to get students thinking about the African American experience. 

Click here to learn more about Actively Read. And if you do use our materials with Actively Read, we’d love to hear from you! Contact Cheryl at to tell us about your experience. 

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