I find a vast difference between the distraction-laden computer screen/magazine/newspaper scanning we’ve become accustomed to versus the slow, contemplative reading that gives a person a chance to really hear what an author is attempting to present and engage the reader with. And it saddens me that literacy rates are in a sorry state, and just a quick (yes, skim) of the internet reveals the average adult in the U.S. is reading somewhere between the 5th and 9th grade reading levels. Maybe it isn’t so sad at all. Maybe it’s become one big shrug, and then it’s back to the short, choppy texts, updates and tweets we return to between doorbell announcements of another email in the inbox.
Maybe reading an entire book (or hey, even an entire blog post!), is just too much of a hassle. Maybe we’ve just trained our brains to take in so many pieces of minutia that even the idea of a comprehensive complete pontificating of a whole idea is not worth the effort anymore. Thinking has become passe’; we don’t even need to learn how to read maps anymore because GPS systems do the *thinking* for us.
I don’t know. It seems more and more obvious that we’re missing out on building real live relationships when we’re each tethered to our personal digital products to (ironically) “connect” with others, but what, if anything, goes missing if we stop reading? Does it really matter if we read from paper or from a screen? Does it really matter if newspapers have “dumbed down” over the centuries (have you seen or tried to read one of those from the 1800’s)?
Do the children in our homes see us tapping our fingers on keyboards and smartphones more than turning the pages of books? I’m just wondering. Does it really matter? Do we really care if our children learn to read and think deeply, or is it just cool that they grow up to be savvy enough send thousands of texts a month, preferring that to talking? After all, talking takes work. Like reading.
If you’ve read this far (not likely, given the odds!), chances are that these things do matter to you. If so, do whatever it takes to ponder these things (lock yourself in your bathroom for 15 minutes if you have to…without your cell phone….). And if distractions are the rule in your life, consider what it may be costing.
And maybe…maybe then pack up the family and go to the library for thick books to read. And turn off the gadgets for a couple of hours. And pop some popcorn. And read and then bond together by talking (not texting) about it all. And maybe…maybe even forgo the temptation to blog, update or tweet about the experience. Maybe….maybe reading will not be quite the hassle anymore, but the blessing we’ve been missing out on.
If you need or want a strong hand to help you in this, you could (shudder) try Freedom. It’s an application that locks you away from the internet on Mac or Windows computers for up to eight hours at a time. If you think that’s scary…..try another generational slide into deeper illiteracy.
You can read more thoughts on reading this week at other High Five Mom posts. Tell them I sent you!
Pondering with you,