Saturday, January 28, 2012

Write - Can children cuddle up with ebooks?

In response to Gabe Habish:

Terry Brooks in his "Shannara" series addresses the fantasy world the comes after the technological apocalypse where knowledge contained on DVDs, etc., has been lost. Dark Angel, a TV series, did the same. As a society, what do we leave behind to show we were here if all writing enters cyber-space, if cursive is no longer taught (already implemented in some areas)... we've already eliminated history and language as requirements in education. Technology is great as an adjunct not as a foundation upon which to raise a child.

Peter Pan, Uncle Wiggley, Nurse Nancy, Tarzan of the Apes, Scuffy - The Tugboat. The names invoke private reads behind my uncle's leather chair in San Francisco, while the murmur of adults became white noise as Tiger Lily was captured, Wendy told stories gleaned from other books, and the clapping of one's hands saved Tinkerbell from death. Scuffy, lovingly referred to as Scuppy by a two year old, was cradled in his arms as he drifted off to sleep night after night until it was dog-eared and worn. It waits on a shelf now for the next generation.

What is gained through ebook use? Ease of travel (doesn't weigh much), instant gratification, and with backlight, they can be read anywhere, cost of books is a bit less but one needs to buy 20 plus full sized print books to make up the cost of an inexpensive electronic device, which will last how long until another replaces it?

What is lost through ebook use? Books can be heavy so one must choose well when one travels but then how many children travel? And the choosing of a book in itself teaches us who and what we are. Indeed, it informs who we will become. We live in a world of instant gratification - I know I've grumbled at the lines at the DMV or Post Office, not to mention check out queues. But delayed gratification teaches patience, a commodity our world finds in short supply. Why does everything have to be right now? Can we allow children to be children, to savor the moment of discovery, to trace a picture from an illustration as the artist within develops? How do you cuddle an ebook? If you drop a book, you lose your page. If you drop your ebook, you can lose your library.

I love walking into my physical library and seeing old friends. The folly of Jardyce vs Jardyce (Bleak House by Dickens). Does Peter ever grow up? I feel the tears and inward struggle contained in A Room of One's Own where the "willows weep in perpetual lamentation" and am grateful for my own small writing alcove. Alcott, Barrie, Riordan, Dickens, Pearl S. Buck, Poe (ah, the terror of turning a physical page), Shakespeare, Rowling, Tolkien, Austen... the list is too long but whether dead or alive, I am among friends. I can touch their spines, flip through their pages, find a pressed leaf - that was the day I sat in the "airplane" tree and ate ripe tomatoes and read of Tarzan finding his birth place and teaching himself to read - or a violet placed in an antique volume by my grandmother's hand. Where was she when she read this missive? What were her thoughts? All I know is that the flower was plucked and tucked purposely between the pages. But why? As bookmark, as something lovely to remember, what were her thoughts? One cannot tuck mementoes in an ebook, creating a connection to the next reader.

Do ebooks have a place? Yes. Just like the computer upon which I send my thoughts and words into the world, technology is here and is convenient and places my beloved research at my fingertips; but for a child... I say to let them discover the feel, the smell, the world of paper books; let them be grounded in the joy of a favorite book - a talisman that winks memory at them from a shelf; give them their foundation of patience, the savor of delayed gratification, the excitement of being the first to open the pages into a new world as they make it their own.

Allow them to press their own flowers.

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