Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reading at Risk! A Book Give Away to Stop the Insanity!

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.  


  1. Dear Karen, As I type one child has her nose in a book and it's time for lights out. Hard to enforce that edict when there is 'just one more page' to read. I agree with you...the life that steeps in to you as you hold a book in your hands (or one day, will I ever appreciate my son reading on what looks like a credit card?)-that life stays with us, no matter how many books we read. Just the other day my husband and I were recalling a scene from Carson McCuller's "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"- a book we each read way before he and I met- yet, this scene sticks with us still. I suggest to you a beautiful book by my friend Jana Laiz, titled "Weeping Under The Same Moon"- a YA book and just excellent. Okay, it is time for lights out. I will link your blog to mine on my Facebook Page
    With much love, Suzi Banks Baum

  2. Karen, I'm lucky to have kids who love to read. At this moment, youngest son is tearing through Red Pyramid and youngest daughter is nose deep in Wintergirls. We have books piled in every shelf and corner of the house (so much so that DH gave me an e-reader for Christmas to cut down on the "clutter". Silly man. Now it's even easier to feed my habit... but I digress...) I don't think I'm alone with the avid readers.

    There are still a lot of deep readers out there in the younger generations. If they're not shaking their fists for Jen Valjean, they're mourning for Rue, and later Finnick. They're crying for Melinda and her lost ability to speak. They're laughing out loud at Moose Flanagan and wondering about his life on Alcatraz.

    I think it's telling that the top sellers these past years include a middle grade boy who keeps a diary (pardon me... journal) and a girl who loves a vampire - no, werewolf - no, vampire.

    I worry more that the older generation looks at the newer technology and the way kids communicate and wring their hands instead of embracing it and using more mediums to connect kids with reading.

    Just a thought.

  3. And a good thought, at that, Linda. I, too, have taken Rue and Finnick, Melinda and Bella into my heart and know gazillions of young people are out there just as excited for release dates of favorite authors as I ever was. I hope the recent trends in the strength of YA and MG lit is a growing one and continues!

  4. The 8yo got a headlight for Christmas - an honest to goodness (well, plastic version) of a miner's headlamp. Hi Ho Hi Ho and all that. He uses it to read under the covers. Which theoretically I try to prevent after bedtime, but to me is a fantastic use of "technology" for good ends - reading. His latest fave is one that I couldn't get into but he swears is fantastic - The Children of the Lamp series with Djinns and magic and whatnot. Again, technology (well, magic) for good ends! In sum - I'm excited when technology is a tool to facilitate, rather than replace, imaginative and hands-on experiences including reading...

  5. I love it! I can just see him with the covers like a tent over his head, the glow of the light eeking out from under the blanket... What a hoot. And hard to put a stop to that kind of thing when you know you did it, too, as a kid!