I’m looking for innovative ways to get my preteen son to read. A friend of mine has repeatedly declared that we are living in a “post-literate society” which suggests that we’ve decided collectively to read less. There have been few truer statements. Our children don’t read. Their parents don’t read. And there’s no resolve in sight.
Our media has been transformed. Print has become digital. Even homes that used to have shelves lined with books are now filled with Bluerays. Flea markets sell used DVDs for less than a dollar and VHS tapes go out with the weekly trash. Digital content is easily obtained and as easily discarded.
You’d think that we’d be using fewer resources to create our info-tainment, but somewhere in Asia there is a wasteland of unrecycled circuit boards. And for every 100k gigs of digital content, there’s piles of non-paper waste.
The digital content that was supposed to enhance our lives is consumed, digested, and disposed far quicker than any books ever were. We used to keep our books as trophies of collected wisdom. A lifetime of first editions in the most affluent of homes are now replaced with a wall of bluerays and video games. Those velvet paintings are no longer the masterpieces on the living room wall. The couch is now on the other side of the room facing that big wall with the 52″ flatscreen television.
Vinyl albums, cassette tapes, and HiFi stereos that were once the source of our musical content have been replaced long ago with MP3 players and streaming content channeled through Bluetooth in every room.
And not a book to be found.
As early as preschool, we are replacing paper storybooks with tablets and digital learning games. Toddlers in grocery store check out lines are tapping out color coded beeps and bops on a parent’s smart phone. I recall playing video games close and loud enough to trigger kicks and punches from my unborn child inside my wife’s womb. Fascinating once. Now normal. Digital all the way!
So it really is no surprise that our young people don’t read. Reading has gone the way of cursive writing. Penmanship is no longer taught in many schools. Spelling tests are a things of the past. And fantastic tales of fictional characters have been replaced with the mandatory informational texts. The boards of education insist that all these new standards will bolster standardized test scores.
We are not reading to our kids. We are not reading!
Books in the pediatrician’s waiting room go untouched as juveniles grasp their parents’ (or their own) mobile devices. Elementary school students more accustomed to sliding their fingers across a glossy screen have little knowledge of the world of paper books.
Local libraries that once offered their internet access as a viable alternative to print or media content can’t keep their doors from closing. Their discounted books that used to sell for a couple dollars can’t be sold for cents on the dollar.
Bookstores close–to be replaced with coffee houses with free wifi. We read, but our content is filled with vibrant and animated images. No match for a book.
Every aspect of our world is changing. The way we interact with each other has evolved with social media, YouTube, and Skype. Even with on-demand cable, the internet side of Netflix and Hulu stream unlimited content. Our smartphones parallel our televisions. And again, no need for a book.
Owners manuals are digitized. Maps are now navigation systems, and calculators can be replaced with scanners, apps, and Siri.
The generations to come won’t need to think as hard as their parents. And yet they’ll rely on their parents to care for them much longer. Colleges prepare their students for diminishing careers; student loans will likely not be repaid; and graduates will be more skilled in Xbox games, Instagram posts, and waiting skills at the suburban Appleby’s.
Our impatient young readers will develop a temperament to have the world cater to them. I’m not as concerned with my son Dylan’s unwillingness to read as much as his reduced desire to develop his mind in the years to come.
Read, Dylan Read!