My colleague Cheryl sent me this article, “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” from the Sunday New York Times book section. It figures; I contemplated getting the NYT yesterday too, but decided to try and fix a broken kitchen drawer instead (with some success, I might add).
The story promises to be one part of a series “The future of reading: digital versus print.” That’s just great. What will come next? “The future of sandwiches: peanut butter versus jelly.” Or “The future of music: rock versus roll.”
It’s an interesting and very teachable article as it keeps see-sawing back and forth between the idea that yes, children (of all ages, I guess, because the group they are talking about here are teenagers, mostly) need to read books to become better readers and thus smarter/better people, versus reading stuff online really does count as reading and it is a type of literacy skill that is both different from traditional book reading and that is important to master. To me, they kind of bury on page four the key point: “Even those who are most concerned about the preservation of books acknowledge that children need a range of reading experiences. ‘Some of it is the informal reading they get in e-mails or on Web sites,’ said Gay Ivey, a professor at James Madison University who focuses on adolescent literacy. ‘I think they need it all.'”
I realize that there has to be a debate/controversy created to sell some papers here, but the idea that reading is somehow an “either-or” affair is ridiculous. And every time that someone says “the kids today don’t read books like they used to,” I always respond with two words: Harry Potter, a reading phenomenon unlike anything that existed when I was a kid.
Incidentally, the picture in the article of the kids looking at laptops and the parents looking at newspapers/magazines is sort of what it looks like around our household. Only around here, the TV is on too, and all three of us are looking at laptops typically.