I have an aching worry that my 3 and 5-year-old grandchildren might not grow up with the love of books that I had as a child.
Swipe or finger-lick?
They both spend some of their time on a tablet. They learn things on it, play games, follow pictures and stories, and no doubt their future education will rely heavily on online sources.
It’s true that technology is part of everyday life for most of us now, but does reading from a screen provide the same experience for children as the feel of reading from paper?
Studies tell us that children’s screen use rises significantly towards the end of primary school, at the same time, reading of traditional paper-bound books drops. I really worry that this might be a long-term, permanent development, and I mourn the possible loss – not just for me but for all parents and grandparents – of shared reading. It’s noticeable that when I read to my grandchildren from a book, there is much more warmth in our interaction, more affection and more laughter, and cuddling comes very naturally. By contrast, when they want to use their tablet, mostly it needs to be held on their lap, meaning I have to “shoulder-surf” to share what they are seeing.
My chosen reading pleasure format
My hope is that tech won’t REPLACE books, but be an additional avenue to the joy of reading. I too have an iPad, but I find that I’m unable to read books, even on the Kindle app, as easily as I do from a paper book. So I choose to listen to audio-books to save me from screen overload. This has probably come about due to my long-sightedness which is a bit of a pain, but it means I still have that opportunity for escapism that a good read has always offered me, and it is just an alternative, not a replacement for a traditional book.
I recently bought from a friend two dozen second-hand books for reading aloud to my favourite little kiddies. The books have been well-loved but they are still in near-new condition, and I will read them to Frank and Naya at bedtime, as we have always done. It’s something I really look forward to, and I hope it creates memories for them to carry with them when they no longer need tucking up in bed. In fact, I’ve noticed that Naya who’s just 3, after hearing me read the story a few times, has absorbed almost every detail and then insists on telling me the story in return! I know at the moment she’s learning from the pictures, but I do believe that running my finger under the words as we read, is part of her early learning, and hopefully, the seeds of a love of books for a lifetime.
The writer’s point of view
Since the internet dawned, rather than books becoming redundant, the number of books being written has risen hugely – in large part due to the arrival of e-readers like Kindle.
But I do think that for an author, the sense of achievement and pride in having made an impression on people outside your own immediate circle must be much greater and more fulfilling if you can see and handle the book itself in print – the satisfyingly aligned and cut pages, the imaginatively designed paper jacket, the slight creak as you open the new pages – and the smell! That wonderful smell of new paper!
And to see twenty copies of it arrayed on a shelf in Waterstones – or even better perhaps, on someone’s personal bookshelf – must surely be worth more than a thousand Amazon e-book downloads!
Do you prefer reading a novel on a tablet or from a book? Could technology replace the touchy-feeliness of a paper-bound book?
I’d love to know what you think. Have you written a book and self-published? Did you have it proofread before you published and was it worthwhile do you think? Is the swipe going to replace the finger-licking pleasure of turning a page?