A good friend gave me a Kindle reader for my birthday.
It's quite the invention - if I want to, I can download a copy of War and Peace and it'll only weigh 100 grams. Heck, a paper copy of the same book would weigh at least 20 times that much.
With my new reader, I don't have to pack around a flashlight for reading in the dark, and there are reams of books available either free or for a small fee, including books and games for children. With those advantages, why would anyone bother reading a traditional book anymore? Once I got the Kindle, I began to notice lots of other reading devices, particularly those aimed at parents of young children - lovely, colourful pieces, the size of an Etch-a-Sketch, that talk to children and, according to ads, "teach them to read."
One ad even showed a mom using the latest gizmo to read to her young child.
I guess these devices have a place - especially in our technological age, and considering that literacy is more than just the act of learning to read.
Having said that, I'd like to put in a word for the good old-fashioned book made out of real paper, and kids' books, in particular.
I'm a sucker for picture books. They come in all sizes and shapes, from the smallest, baby-resistant cardboard book to the intricately illustrated whopper.
Sometimes each page will have just one word, and at other times the stories will move even the most hard-hearted adult to shed a wee tear.
Books excite more than just visual or aural senses.
It's pretty hard to duplicate the tactile sensation of Pat the Bunny with an electronic version. And, sure, pop-ups on the computer or tablet are fun, but they can't beat the 3-D version in a picture book.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that reading is more than just a passive experience, or a simple absorption of words and parsing of sentences.
Stories can teach about emotions, empathy, sharing, making choices, or being careful.
They can be funny, sad, or silly. And reading a book with young kids opens up so many opportunities to talk about these things.
The advantage of books is that they don't have to cost an arm and a leg. The Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows public libraries provide access to thousands of picture books.
And a child can choose up to 60 books to take out on loan at any one time, for up to three weeks.
That's a lot of free reading.
But if truth be told, just going to the library is an adventure for children.
When our kids were little, we spent hours at the library reading books and choosing books to take home. Some favourites were borrowed over and over.
Whoever said that children have a short span of attention has never seen a child with her favourite book.
- Kathy Booth is a local writer addressing the importance of early childhood development, and the work being done in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and with Katzie First Nation.
@ Copyright 2013