Friday, July 29, 2011

The Day the Reading Died

My brother just posted a news article today about a high school in Missouri that is banning a couple books. The request came from a moral standpoint, but the principal has stated they are being banned because they are not "age appropriate." That is interesting, because both my brother and I were assigned one of the books in high school. Maybe our school was just more mature than this one.

I feel bad for the students of that high school, but I feel worse because I feel like this is another symptom of an ever larger problem. And that is.... the death of the book in America. Mom and Pop book stores were consumed by the big box book sellers, and now even they are a dying breed. Rest in peace, Borders, for you have already succumbed. Now, the argument may be made that the e-book is the cause, but I don't think so. I think it may contribute, because I love me my Nook and my ability to have a new book magi-ppear in an instant, but that isn't the problem. The problem is... the readers of the world are getting old and dying, and our children, our younger generations aren't being taught the love of reading.

Children these days (yes, I sound 80 years old) are not reading. They are not being read to. Their parents are blackberrying, Angry Birding (Hello, my name is Lynn and I was an addict until I beat all the levels), and DVRing Cake Boss (Hello, my name is Lynn and I've never seen this, so I am sorry if it really is worth watching). We used to have fewer options for activities than kids do now. We recorded a few things on our plastic VHS tapes, but if we missed Who's the Boss?, we missed it. We couldn't record that, plus Family Ties, Dallas, and Full House so that the second we got home we could park ourselves in front of the boob tube for the rest of the night. We had our Commodore 64 set up to play Pac Man and Avoid the Noid, but we didn't have hand held rectangles where you could instantly download an app any time of day to avoid boredom. We got bored. We had a swimming pool in the backyard, and we still got bored... and speaking for myself, when I was bored, I read.

I see kids all the time, mine included, with an iPod touch permanently glued to her palm and her library book collecting dust, untouched. We are raising a generation that believes, "gtg, ttyl" is good writing, and their imaginations are as unused as a card catalog.... and yet we ban books that speak to people for fear that they aren't age appropriate?

Tabbi read The Hunger Games series, three long books, in a couple weeks because it spoke to her. She put her phone and her iPod down and she read. She talked about it with passion and excitement in a way that she had never spoken about a book before. Now I realize that it isn't being banned, but still... if a random teenage boy could have that reaction to Slaughterhouse Five (like my high school guy friends did), isn't that reason enough to keep it around? It made them turn off the Xbox and discuss literature, and if that isn't a miracle, I don't know what is.

We are raising a generation of cyber humans. Kids who play cyber guitar, not real ones. Kids who would rather use iPod apps than their imaginations, and we as adults aren't helping. We are letting them, and we are stripping away the books that could one day make them actually want to unplug. Right now, I can say that my little boys love reading, but I can also say that we own no Xbox, Wii, or Nintendos (do those exist anymore?). And, we don't, because I fear the future if we did. I fear for the day my boys crawl onto the couch with a controller, instead of up on my lap with Cat in the Hat, and I fear that on that day I will let them play so that I can watch my DVRed Celebrity Rehab in peace. I get why this is happening, but I also get the tragedy it is causing, as well. Books are dying.... and our kids' imaginations and minds will go right along with them. Rest in peace....


Tuffy said...

Avoid the Noid wasn't until we had a PC.

Also, yes they still have Nintendos, they're called Wiis. :)

metamorphstorm said...

I agree totally with this. I'm not a parent yet, just an almost-twenty-year-old, but I have a bedroom that looks like a library. And it seems that only three of four of the many people I know have a collection of books. Or any books. I sometimes miss the days of having friends over when I was a kid and we'd sit together on the floor looking at books and laughing at the pictures.

All that said, I definitely enjoy games and the occasional movie, too, but when I have kids, they'll be readers just as I am and will only have occasional access to the luxuries I've gotten used to having, because when I only had a little access to what I do now, I spent ninety percent of my time outside playing or reading books in my room.

I really enjoy this blog, it's so well-written and realistic and entertaining, too.

Domestic Goddess (In Training) said...

Mike - Yeah well.... I read a lot of books to contribute to me not knowing that!

And Thanks, Metamorphstorm... at the risk of sounding geriatric, it is young people like you have the chance to revive this culture of eletric entertainment. And don't get me wrong, I am not Amish... I enjoy me a good Words with Friends and my DVR is my BFF... but there's a balance that more people need to find!

metamorphstorm said...

Wow, you responded! And I'm late!

I was just about to add to my ancient comment that I went to the library recently, thrilled to be there since I'm book-crazy, and heard a kid whining. Not a kid, really. He was anywhere from 9-12 years old. And he had been told they would leave if he read for fifteen minutes. And it was as if he had been asked to scrub a toilet. His resistance to it was so extreme, I couldn't believe it. I grew up watching those super-educational cartoons that promote reading in a big way, and it stuck. Seeing modern kids (so I sound geriatric, too? If not, can I?) so against picking up a book and just enjoying the fact that someone put a LOT of time and effort into writing/thinking out, not in that exact order, makes me sad. They won't know the value of anything that's not an iPod or iPhone or whatever it is right now. They won't get that "Whoa, I understand the meaning of life!" feeling from learning history and watching it repeat itself, or anything of the sort.