Are you looking for a secret weapon to help your struggling readers catch up with their peers and learn to love reading? According to this article from the Sydney Morning Herald, you may be overlooking a powerful tool that can help students accelerate their reading development, improve comprehension, and get excited about books. That’s right, it’s the iPad. Here’s why it works:

For many students who struggle to read at grade level, reading becomes a chore, a fight, and a struggle. But with an iPad in their hands, struggling readers can take charge of their interaction with books, tapping on words to hear them read aloud, choosing books that they want to read, and reading independently without help from an adult. And for even the youngest of struggling readers, these small technological wonders can lead to big improvements in their reading.

St. Mary’s Primary School in Erskineville, Australia, is piloting an iPad program for first graders who struggle with reading. Although the trial is still in its early stages, teachers have already seen a number of positive developments. One student, a six-year-old named Dominic, has gone from reluctant reader to avid page turner — all because of an iPad. “He’s interested in reading, [and] not just books he needs for homework. He’s interested in reading books we’ve got at home and he likes to read the books himself, rather than having us read to him,” said his mother.

What makes the iPad such a great tool for struggling readers like Dominic? According to one tutor, the device “seems to unleash an engagement in learning, an increase in motivation, and previously unseen independence in the reading and writing process.” And this tutor isn’t the first to think that technology like iPads, iPod touches, and personalized software programs can help teachers keep students engaged, motivated, and learning. Kindergartners in Maine are getting iPad 2 units this fall, and a summer learning program in Boulder is using iPads to keep English learners engaged during summer school.

What do you think? Can iPads and mobile devices help teachers keep students engaged and learning?