I was browsing some blogs, and stumbled across the good old Encyclopedia Britannica, albeit in blog form. I think blogs have come a long way in a short time for sure, but when the Encyclopedia has a blog, you know blogs have made it. But I digress…
While reading Encyclopedia Britannica’s Blog, I began reading about the future of books in Britain. J.E. Luebering blogs about how Britain is focusing on making 2008 the “Year of Reading.” Mr. Luebering then begins to discuss the motivations behind this spearhead of sorts, citing that a recent survey by the British Government that shows the 25% of Britons haven’t read a book in the last year. Mr. Luebering then asks the poignant question that others have started asking in this technology driven age, Do we really even need books?
Mr. Luebering counters the argument that books are an outdated mode of research and an inefficient means of becoming informed with the advent of the Internet, radio, and TV by reminding his readers that at one point in time – books were utilized both for pleasure and for being informed.
I agree with Mr. Luebering in that books were and still are both for being informed and for enjoyment. Certainly most children would rather read for enjoyment than a required text, much an adult rather read a NY Bestseller than a work-related article. Surely in the age of endless Harry Potter books, movies, and video games someone out there enjoys reading as opposed to sitting in front of the TV.
The more I thought about how little it seemed that people read the more I thought about my own classroom. I assigned my students homework over this weekend, the first time i ever have. They were shocked to see that in the place of my standard Friday, “Have a great weekend. I’m proud of you all,” was a dauntingly ominous, “Read one chapter from any book.” I had eighteen children asking me if I was serious. Read on the weekend?! Outrageous, I know.
Reading is a dying form of learning it seems. In a world with instructional strategies that can hit every known intelligence, differentiate for any level learner, and accommodate any behavior issues, we sometimes forget that people just don’t read books like they used to and we need to prepare our students to find information in the same way adults do. Every morning I read the news, from Yahoo. Every night I check the headlines, on Yahoo. I even watch my sports clips on the Internet. Seldom do I read the paper, the only written text I touch is professional materials and books read for enjoyment.
So how do we prepare our learners to do both? Simple, we use both. The future of books isn’t a simple yes or no answer. We can’t throw all our books out or trash all technological research either. We can show our students how to find information from both, which for the most part we ultimately do. We need find a good old fashioned “compromise.”
In terms of compromise there is a hybrid method to using books in schools. With Amazon’s introduction of the “Kindle,” an electronic device that displays written text, suddenly we can read from what looks like a 1990′s Gameboy. I picture a student having a device like the Kindle to store text books, comic books, and books that are read for fun. Remember the saying, “A laptop for every student!” What a more economical compromise and method of injecting learning and technology into the classroom. As educators, we need to find both an effective and economical solution to our problems, schools will always be part business. Most e-books on the Kindle cost less than the paperback versions of the same book, you can subscribe to newspapers, and even magazines. How much more economical would a school license to share books amongst it’s population than to continually buy new textbooks, store them, and replace them.
Now don’t confuse me for an Amazon salesperson. I’m not saying the Kindle is the only way and certainly I hope that other developers bring some competitive pricing and alternate versions of the machine. I’m just saying that perhaps the future of books lies in a device that bridges the gap between clunky textbooks and sleek technology media.