Before we get into further discussion, take a look at the video, and then we’ll talk!
So, what do you think? Is it great to see a baby interacting with an iPad, or do you worry that she won’t understand how to use print material when she’s older? Did Steve Jobs really code her OS? The author of a short post on American Editor finds it worrisome for another reason:
It symbolizes the problem I see with the future of language and the acceptance of Twitter-speak/spelling as the norm.”
Me thinks these people doth protest too much.
Here’s a story: my colleague and friend Sadie has a young son named Fox who recently put his hand on his father’s laptop screen. He stretched his fingers wide and said “bigger!” When the image on the screen didn’t respond, he looked at his dad quizzically as if to say: “What kind of crappy technology is this?!”
So Fox knows how touch screens are supposed to work. But, of course, he also knows how books and magazines work. (I mean, his mom’s a librarian. Hello?!) And I’m sure he’s figured out that all screens don’t incorporate touch technology. It’s the same with my grandnephew and grandniece. Put an iPod Touch in their hands, and they’re all over it. Put a book in their hands, and they can turn pages and read the printed word.
Young children are remarkable creatures. They are born to investigate and explore the world around them, whether they come across a rock or an iPad. More importantly, we remain learners throughout our lives. When you were growing up, did you really expect to see the day when you could pull up information, watch videos, play music and make phone calls on a device smaller than a portable transistor radio? And yet, chances are you’ve mastered that device well enough to find it remarkably useful.
Some academicians believe we are moving toward a post literate world; but, honestly, I don’t see this video as Exhibit One in any future investigation exploring why the human race has lost the ability to read.
It’s all good, people. So calm down.
Now, Siri? Now, that’s something we really have to worry about!
It was just the facts, please, when it came to reading for my father. He loved non-fiction, particularly books and magazines on science and nature. He always questioned me and my sister about what attracted us to fiction. He enjoyed scripted television shows and movies, but he never liked reading short stories and novels. He equated “reading fiction” to “a waste of time.”
Published in book form now, In Praise of Reading and Fiction is Llosa’s tribute to fiction’s power to inspire individuals and whole societies, and to bridge the imaginary distances between different cultures:
Good literature erects bridges between different peoples, and by having us enjoy, suffer, or feel surprise, unites us beneath the languages, beliefs, habits, customs and prejudices that separate us. When the great white whale buries Captain Ahab in the sea, the hearts of readers take fright in exactly the same way in Tokyo, Lima, or Timbuctu. …the shudder is the same in the reader who worships Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Allah, or is an agnostic, wears a jacket and tie, a jalaba, a kimono, or bombachas.”
Just as importantly, the worlds writers and readers imagine in the realm of fiction speak to our aspirations for a better reality:
When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute—the foundation of the human condition—and should be better.”
From the earliest tales our ancestors spun in firelit caves to the grand epics of literature, Llosa knows we and our world are better because of the stories we tell each other.
I heard this song years ago, and the Oklahoma Department of Libraries even received permission to play it at the State Literacy Conference one year. While discussing new readers with a friend in our Literacy Resource Office, I remembered the tune and promptly found it on YouTube. It makes a nice Library YouTube Break, and a reminder of the power of reading. Support your local adult literacy council.