In a recent article on Motherlode, KJ Dellantonia talks about her decision to put her iPad down and return to what is rapidly becoming an old-fashioned way of reading — book in hand. Her children don’t accept that she is truly reading when they see her with the iPad, believing that she could at any moment stray from the “pages” of her novel and instead begin playing a game or checking in on Facebook.
It’s a suspicion that she determines is not unfounded. E-readers have a tendency to render their users fickle. Bored with the first few pages of the book you’ve selected? No problem. Finding a new one is only a few clicks away and on a device like the iPad the temptation to turn to another form of entertainment when you aren’t captured by those first few lines is multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of apps available at your fingertips.
In the end KJ put down the iPad and picked up a book to ensure her children know without a doubt that she is actually reading with the hope that they’ll do the same. “They don’t equate a gadget with a book, and maybe never will,” she says.
A few months ago I would have been inclined to agree with her. Ever the luddite, I fought my husband’s suggestion that we purchase an e-reader. Our closets were overflowing with messy stacks of paperbacks. We had them crammed under beds and stacked on shelves, but still I dismissed the idea that taking our love for reading digital might solve our problem, or at least slow it down. Nothing could replace the simple joy of feeling a page under fingertip for me.
Then came my husband’s birthday, he’s impossible to buy for, and a kindle seemed like the best option. I didn’t have to use the thing, after all. Fast forward six months and we are scrambling every evening to be the first to lay claim to the e-reader. Anders has his own version now in the VTech V.Reader and he will often settle in next to me on the couch with it.
On any given evening you may find the four of us sitting in the living room, two of us immersed in our e-readers, one perusing the paper on an iPhone, another with the iPad across their lap listening intently as Elmo reads a book about Sesame Street aloud to them. We are the portrait of a modern family. Of course, we have to find the balance in screen time and face time, but I honestly believe these two can be combined for a positive developmental outcome in my children.
Books becoming more interactive and readily available is a plus and, I believe, an increase in their draw. I often wonder if my younger sister, a person with a professed lifelong distaste for reading due to the fact that “it’s boring,” might have developed an interest if books back then were as exciting as they are for today’s generation.
I will never lose my love and appreciation for the feel of a book in my hand, for sitting with my child in my lap and exploring the colorful pages of a storybook together, but I’m also more accepting than ever of the evolving physical state of books and the way we access and enjoy them.
In time, my children may know a book as a gadget, but as long as it’s a gadget they make frequent use of, I’m okay with that.