Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reading is fundamental. For real.

Bringing Up a Young Reader on E-Books -

E-readin' tykes image NYT
Julianna’s teacher, Kourtney Denning, sees e-books as essential. “Old books don’t really cut it anymore,” she said. “We have to transform our learning as we know it.”
Look, I love my kindle. I make no bones about it. Heck, I like it so much I am trying to give one away and am, frankly, surprised it's turning out to be so hard to do so.  But, self-promoting giveaways aside, no. No, no, no, e-books are not "essential" and "old books" do, in fact, "cut it," still. (And I'm already including the kindle -- not the Fire, the plain old, good for nothing much more than reading kindle -- in the "old books" category, without giving them preference over ink on paper books.)

Dammit, kids don't need music and blinking lights with every stupid thing in order for it to hold their attention. Or, more accurately I suspect, destroy their ability to fix their attention on something. We know that the mental discipline to delay gratification is key to growing into a properly functioning adult. We also know, or strongly suspect, reading is a powerful tool for empowering the mind.

Let them wait and get their music and blinking lights from TV and video games in their proper dose. Reading is its own reward. Let it be enough. Show them that it is enough. It is both sufficient and necessary to developing a keen mind.  Says the old-timer who grew up on paper books, audio cassettes, and the Atari 2600.


  1. First and foremost, and as I am sure you are aware, that authors writing articles can and will use your words~ but bend or manipulate them to get a rise out of others.
    My complete statement was "Old books just don't cut it with reluctant readers in my room." However it was omitted in the published article.
    There will always be hard copy books. They will never disappear, BUT we as educators, need to be forward thinkers and stop teaching the way we have been doing it for the last century or two."
    These students in our country's schools are being prepared for jobs that aren't even created yet! Think about that for a moment! 20 years ago, could you possibly imagine that in 20 years time, we were going to have phones with no wires that we could take virtually anywhere and talk with anyone we wanted regardless of how far across the globe they were to us?

    We are now in the global world. Technology is everywhere. The children today are digital natives. As an example~My 2 year old was able to open my iPad and sweep it open to get to her favorite Dr. Seuss book without any help.

    The main purpose for the interview was to state that "yes, I do see a huge benefit with using digital technology, especially with those who are reluctant to read in the first place." What I have witnessed is that with best practices in mind, using cooperative learning strategies, student centered lessons that are technology infused are where we need to go as educators.

    Kourtney Denning

    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Kourtney. I hope I didn't give offense. The last thing I'd want to do is pile on a teacher -- educators have it hard enough without reporters twisting their words to fit a story and smart aleck bloggers leaping to conclusions!

      Tablets and e-readers certainly have a place. When I see things like Dawkins's The Magic of Reality on the iPad and how powerful a tool the tablet can be in turning a book into a multimedia presentation, I'm jealous how much young learners have at their finger tips. It's not that I'm against using e-readers; I feel we need encourage the ability to engage with nothing more than a text. I fear we'll lose something essential if, as a society, we devalue the discipline it takes to get the meaning out of just words read in order from beginning to end with no animations, no music, no narration.

      As an aside, I volunteer every couple of weeks at my kids' school and have found spending just a few hours in their kindergarten class (with a teacher and a teacher's assistant to do the heavy lifting) exhausting! I appreciate what you, and all teachers, do and the hard work and preparation you put into what is a sadly underappreciated profession.


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