I grew up around libraries, and readers, and in a culture of reading. A book–that was recreation. A whole book exercises your brain in a way an article doesn’t, in the way a posting doesn’t, and God knows in the way a tweet or an instagram doesn’t.
If you’re raised around the internet, computer games, a thousand kinds of television, DVDs, downloads–how are you going to be as likely to read a book? It’s not your fault–it’s what you were subjected to…
Oh your kid isn’t that way, or you, a young person, aren’t that way? But in terms of demographics, and large numbers, a great many other young people are that way: semi literate or just pseudo literate. The nervous system is programmable; neurological, glandular rewards of quick-burst repetitive imagery, jolting response to input–as with instant messages, and social media, certain types of games (and I love many of those games)–are impulse driven and impulse rewarded, and break up the capacity for long-term attention needed for full, book-oriented literacy.
Perhaps you’re about to tell me you (and I) are both a reader and an active internet person. But again, we had the other template established early. Long thoughts were normal for us. Expressing complex ideas in whole paragraphs of verbiage was normal.
I started worrying about it when I first did live online interviews and panels–no one was able to speak in more than twitter-length remarks. It wasn’t mechanically possible, and it wasn’t their inclination. That’s when I first noticed how different it was; how fragmentary.
“A particularly alarming report on working-age adults was published earlier this month by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development… but young Americans rank the lowest among their peers in the countries surveyed…” (News York Times, 2015).
Look, I think we’re just giving the young too much time online, and with other media–with the digital babysitters. And we’re not insisting on books. We’re not cultivating book reading in them. We’re not giving them time or opportunity to discover books.
Perhaps equally important, we’re giving them too little time with older, literate people.
Too little time–with us.