When I meet with other university professors they often tell me that the students don’t read anymore because their eyeballs are glued to their phones. Technophobes think we are raising a generation that doesn’t understand the value of literature.

The polarization of old and new continues. Maybe it is leftover sediment from an anti-screen mindset that was always on the fringes of the golden age of television. It is a trite myth-like story that attempts to cast books as the underdog in battle against techno-imperialism. Paper is the good guy and Gorilla Glass is the villain. …

It seems to me that we currently live in a culture that is more heavily text based than any other time in history. … Still, what are people reading? It seems like they don’t read many books. I’m not talking about kids, but rather adults. Even the technophobes don’t read books.

I’ve met highly educated elite individuals who have told me they just don’t have time to read books. They skim the NY Times book review so they can participate in cocktail party conversations. They buy executive summaries from the back of in-flight magazines. I’m shocked by the number of people who ask me if there are audio versions of my books available.

Is the problem that kids don’t read books, or is the problem that nobody reads books because our culture has become anti-academic and anti-intellectual? …

I’ll admit that I’m biased. I’m an academic. I get paid to read. But my kids (6 and 8) also read a lot on their own. Not only because I require it –30 minutes of reading is a prerequisite to video game time– but also because their dad models good reading behaviors.

Dad is always ordering new books; dad is always reading them. In my household, being an adult means feeling comfortable with books. Maturity means having excessive familiarity with long-form written word.

The Common Sense Media report agrees. “Parents can encourage reading,” they explain, “by keeping print books in the home, reading themselves, and setting aside time daily for their children to read.”

Strong correlations exist between these parental actions and the frequency with which children read (scholastic, 2013). For example, among children who are frequent readers, 57% of parents set aside time each day for their child to read, compared to 16% of parents of children who are infrequent readers.

When it comes to books, however, most studies show that the text delivery method is irrelevant. Good reading behavior has nothing to do with technology. …

I read to my kids every night. I read with my kids during the day. I do it because I see it as a crucial piece of their education. I can’t just outsource the raising of my children to specialists–and then complain that those teachers are failing. It is obvious to me that parents also need to be involved. They need to make sure their children read books.

Of course, it is easier to frame the story as paper vs. digital. It gives us permission not to engage with our kids. We can blame the video games and apps rather than blaming ourselves.

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