I read an article online today about the concern for the decline of “deep reading,” or the ability to sit alone with a book and read it for an extended period of time, digesting and enjoying what you are reading. In this age of Internet, tweets, and texting…it’s no wonder, I guess, that there are concerns about not only how adults might be impacted by these quick reading fixes, but also about how they will affect children’s ability to learn to read deeply.
I found myself feeling very lucky. I love to read. (Surprised, aren’t you? Ha!) I was raised by a woman who always – always – had a book in her hand. I still have my antique bookshelf from childhood – one with glass doors that swing up and slide back into the shelf to reveal my favorite tomes, waiting in their dark and cozy lemon-Pledge scented home for me. In fact, there are now bookshelves overflowing in each and every room of my house. (Well, except the bathrooms – although one of those has an overflowing magazine rack and the other has a treasure trove of books stuck in the cupboard under the sink. There might be anything hidden under there – Tolkien to Potty Training 101. You even need a flashlight to see the furthest corners. I like to play Indiana Jones in there, even if rolls of toilet paper aren’t nearly as scary as giant spiders or huge rolling boulders.)
But I digress…
I read quickly, but deeply. I love adventures that take me out of my suburban neighborhood and my everyday life. I read to escape, mostly. In fact, my husband recently accused me of reading for days on end over the winter holidays to escape from my job and hide from frustrations. Know what? He was right! There is almost nothing better than cracking open a thick book and wading into the pages, taking on the main character’s persona or imagining riding along on their journey.
And apparently, I’m in the minority. Here’s the thing: I do believe the short texts, emails, easily skimmed internet news pages, and twitter feeds are changing how we process information. The idea that it might make today’s children into adults who won’t have the attention span to “read deeply” is truly a concern. Will they never allow Ray Bradbury’s stories to send a shiver up their spines or shake their fists in agony over Jean Valjean’s plight? Will they never shed tears over the tragedy of Juliet and her lost love? Will they never laugh out loud at a boy and some bugs who travel inside of a giant peach?
And what is life without these stories and others like them? It sounds …well…it sounds sad to me. And a little empty.
I’m doing my best to raise deep readers in my children. They, too, have bookshelves groaning with everything from beloved picture books to the latest middle grade and YA novels. And so far, they seem to have adopted at least to a degree, their mother’s love of reading. Some evenings, when all is quiet, I’ll find one kid stretched out across her bed with her nose in a book and the other curled up in his kid-sized recliner, giggling to himself over the latest adventure of Captain Underpants of the Wimpy Kid. And I smile. I love that they love to read, too.
If you know a kid…If you have a child or a neice/nephew/grandchild/neighbor/friend who tends to watch tv and play games on their iPod more often than they read … Suggest a book. Ask if they’ve ever travelled to another planet or waged war against the Orcs. Read in front of them and better yet – read with them. Enjoy a story…slowly…together.
But before you curl up with that good book -- leave a comment here. You'll be entered in a drawing to win a copy of one of my favorites: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. LOVED this story when I was a kid! Hope you enjoy it, too!
Drawing details: I'll draw the winner on Thursday, January 13, 2011. If the winner does not respond within two weeks, the book will be put up for another drawing at a later date. I'll add your name into the drawing for each comment you leave below, any mention you make of Carpe Keyboard on your own blog, or any link to this post from your Facebook or other social network. Just tell me (in a comment here) that you have linked from FB, etc.