My reading was on the slide. Maybe it was partly the books I’d been reading. Good, but not, you know good. Maybe it was time. A little, but not ever enough. But, I also started to wonder if it was how I was reading. Mostly ebooks. And, often loaded onto an app on my phone. A great app, but still. I just never felt engrossed. It was too easy to start thinking about (or doing) something else. I couldn’t feel the pages in my hands, see my progress. Couldn’t dog ear pages or leave little pencil scratchings. It just didn’t feel right somehow.
So, in an effort to find my way back, I bought some honest-to-goodness books. A couple carefully chosen, long-desired reads. And, from the first day, the first pages, I’m back home.
There’s something else about this paper versus e thing for me. How my son responds. We’ve all heard about the importance of reading to our kids. And, we do. Read together, I mean. Scattered throughout the day and a cherished part of our bedtime routine, he chooses the books and I read. Sometimes I choose and he “reads”. But, I have also started thinking about the impact of reading in front of my son. On any number of occasions, I’ve noticed that if I pick up a book and start reading while he is playing, it’s not long before he’s independently made the choice to pick up one of his own, sit down next to me, and start paging through it. This just doesn’t happen when I’m reading on a phone or tablet. Sure, I can tell him I’m reading my “book”, but I’m not convinced it sends the same message.
Then again, maybe I’m just old school. When I mentioned all of this to my librarian brother he surprised me by saying that of course reading matters, but that how we read might not matter as much as I think. That the experience of reading is going to be vastly different for my son than it was for me growing up. And, reluctantly, I must admit he’s right. I doubt my son will be hauling around textbooks in his backpack by the time he hits high school. It’s more likely he’ll be doing his assigned reading on a platform not yet invented. In that sense, maybe it’s okay that he starts to envisage reading from a more flexible vantage point.
But, I do hope it will feel real for him. I hope he has something similar to the nostalgia I feel when I think of my old hometown library in Wisconsin. Wandering through the stacks, the smell of the books, the feel of that favorite chair as I sat down to turn the pages and open new worlds. The pride of presenting a newly minted library card at the front desk and the joy of lugging that bag of books home, knowing that our family would make our way through them together.
Maybe he’ll feel nostalgic for a certain tablet, instead of the feel of paper.
Paper mom. Digital son. Perhaps. But, for now, I’ll keep trying to pull him back into my world. With trips to the public library and “real” books at bedtime.
And, we’ll keep navigating this changing landscape of reading together. However he ends up reading, I just hope he loves it as much as I do.
For more on this:
The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens by Ferris Jabr in Scientific American