It’s been an interesting couple of days. So, I’m staying at my sister’s for the holidays. It’s been a fun time, she’s got three kids, all in lower elementary. This means I get gifted lots of construction paper art masterpieces, and am treated to labored, but proud, displays of reading prowess. This, I encourage with embarrassing displays of approval.
That the next generation can read assures me proper retirement care. That the next generation will read, assures me job security. For that, I will do much, including jumping out of chairs and yelling with jubilation that Cat in the Hat has been conquered. If nothing else, these kids will have no doubt what Aunt Layla values.
Then again, I’ve been watching Netflix every night until about sunrise. And kids have great BS meters…So, I guess it’s more like…Aunt Layla likes Dr. Suess, Sherlock, and typing on her laptop. Yeah, that’s about right.
When I was teaching reading to homeschool students, I would take them to the library once in a while, and we would all get books and have silent reading time together. I always made a point to choose big, thick books for myself to set a good example. I don’t have the energy for all that anymore.
And besides that, I wonder if our reading landscape has not died, but simply changed. It’s no secret that we don’t read stacks of heady books anymore. But, how often are we are online? For most of us, who carry the internet in our pocket, being online is a natural flow of modern life. We are texting, we are posting, we are commenting.
We are downloading apps that helps us live our lives bigger, better, faster, more efficiently. We are Googling…everything from what to cook for dinner, to the self-diagnosis of every physical and psychological malady we don’t want to spend the money to cure. We read. Just not the way we used to do it.
Now, I am by no means arguing that online reading is sufficient. One must read books. Lots of books with big, dangerous ideas laid out in heavy poetic prose, and laced with metaphors and intricate literary techniques. Yes, to grow one must read the kind of books that make one stop and ponder who we are, how we got here, and where we are going. This is what will ensure the preservation of our civilization. Not WebMD.
But, maybe the state of reading isn’t as dismal as we think. Maybe we do read. We just don’t read the right things. And for that, I’m as guilty as anyone. That’s a much simpler problem than an illiterate society.