One of the many things I am thankful to my parents is that they never discouraged my love for reading while growing up. We were very, very poor in my early years of life but they always put aside money for my books. My mother would make time to take me and my sister to the library every week despite her 70+ hour work schedule. And they never banned genres either; I read all the thrillers, mysteries, and even comic books I liked.
Sure, I was — and in many ways continue to be — a socially awkward girl who preferred to have her nose in a book than go out and interact with others. And while my overactive imagination has gotten me in plenty of trouble over the years, I wouldn’t trade the thousands of books I’ve read in my lifetime for any other life experience.
I want the same for my children. I always tell J that while I want our kids to be technophiles like their parents, I want their first material source of information+entertainment to be books. In other words, I want to make sure that I instill in them a love for books before the introduction of computers, televisions, video game systems, etc.
And as much as I know I may be fighting a losing battle here, I want them to always love and prefer physical and tangible BOOKS over e-readers. (I wrote back in 2008 that I would not dump books to go digital and my stance remains the same.)
This is precisely the reason the following comic strip hit so close to home with me. Especially since Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors (did you know he has written some fantastic adult novels too?) and “Matilda” is a classic loved by millions. As Flavorwire writes:
Cartoonist Aaron Renier, author of Spiral Bound and The Unsinkable Walker Bean, has created a wonderful homage to Roald Dahl’s Matilda, imagining her as she might exist in our current (and future) age of multi-media e-readers for kids. Matilda’s evil, plaid suit sporting father gives the literature-loving Matilda an “iSwindle” and chastises her for wanting to use anything as low-tech as her imagination.
I also have the same fear for Alina. She LOVES story time/books but now she’s getting more and more into TV and playing on the internet with me. I guess it’s my fault for introducing TV to her but it’s only to watch “Your Baby Can Read.” At the same time, watching her zoning out for 20 minutes in front of the TV is kind of disturbing. The DVD’s are actually working (she knows where her head, nose, ears, mouth, toes, etc. are now) but she’s really obsessed with watching the show every day. She still likes to read but I think if it were between her shows and books, she would probably choose the TV.
The comic was cute, but it kind of comes of (or I read it as) holier than thou. Sure e-readers are different than books, but if it convinces someone to read more, then isn’t that the point? It made me think of when the HP books were criticized even though they got kids reading books. I also love that I can look up words I don’t know because it gives me better understanding. Until I tried the e-readers I didn’t understand why people liked them but now I think they just make reading so convenient.
I think we’re interpreting the comic differently. To me, the comic is not about whether e-readers get people to read more, but about how they may stifle creativity and imagination in young children. Just like you said, looking up words with a couple of clicks/taps may be convenient, but the comic asks: wouldn’t it be a better learning experience to try to figure out what the word means by its context?
I personally have no problem with people who prefer e-readers to books. However, I have to question if the use of interactive e-readers in young children can have an adverse effect on their creative development, and I have read that researchers are trying to figure this out as well.
My point in making this was to contrast what is happening in the world today. Obviously children will take tv and moving images over books. They are DAZZLING. I’m blown away by the technology… but if you don’t give children the ability to dream, and to think for themselves without giving them more distractions than content, you are asking for generations with shorter and shorter attention spans. I wasn’t trying to make it holier than thou… but I do think children need someone like Matilda in their corner. She was a hero of mine growing up, and I felt like she needed to get back in the ring.
Oh! One last thing… I completely think eReaders are great. My aunts and uncles who grew up being readers all have and love them… but that’s the thing, they grew up loving to read. If you have books competing with TV and DVDs and video games, and you encourage that competition by offering it on the same devices, you will have children making as tough as a decision as chocolate cake over carrots.
Matilda loved to read in her room with a cup of tea. Book readers need sanctuary.
It may be a losing battle, but you have to hand it to book reading advocates. They are the music makers, the dreamers of dreams!
Thank you so much for your comment, and for clarifying your reasons for creating the Matilda strip! It really means a lot to me that the actual cartoonist came to my lil’ ol’ blog to leave feedback. 🙂
LOVE the comic! I personally dislike eReaders for all of the reasons mentioned above, but also because I just adore books. The texture, the smell, the weight of the pages…it ruins the entire experience for me to just stare at a screen. :p