Nothing makes me happier than seeing a book in a kid's hands. It's kind of a visceral thing, because books are one of the finest things we've done as a species.
I have some new adolescent clients, and when the kid showed up at my office with a book in his hands–not just a book but a tome–whatever the purported problem was, he was going to be okay. Not only that, we'd have a lot to talk about. Sure, he was nerdy–glasses sliding down his nose and whatnot. But books are a powerful ally in the Junior High Wars, and I feel confident on a positive outcome for all in the end.
Contrast that with the kid who showed up with his cell phone. Nonstop texting, a line of communication to the outside world that ends who-knows-where, and people and conversations that are clearly more meaningful to him than the ones right in front of him.
I am less optimistic of a positive outcome for this family because YA books, while recently coming under fire for being “too dark,” are telling mythic tales of overcoming, of discovering self, and of battling evil and winning.
All the elements of junior high in a nutshell.
Cell phones, really mini-laptops these days, are connected to that most random and highly reinforcing of worlds, the internet and other people. There are no organized themes here, and cyberbullying is alive and well in all age groups. There is a tactile element to a phone that's addicting–the feel of the phone, the clicky noises, the beeps and whistles that satisfy a need for the nervous/depressed/angry kid to self soothe, to always feel connected–even if that connection is a fragile and virtual one.
Dare I venture to speculate phones do this for the adult too?
I think I do.
If you're a parent, as a therapist I recommend “tech free times” in which no one gets to use their tech–and books are readily available. (Exception would be books on an electronic device.) Vacations make great times for this. Without the technology, families interact more. It's not always pretty, but its real. Up close, sweaty, and personal.
If you're an adult, take tech vacations/breaks. We didn't evolve with this much stimulation all the time, and downtime for your brain is important. Take some time every day to read–really read.
Sink into that other world of a book, and emerge blinking and refreshed, haven ridden a magic carpet to Somewhere or Sometime Else.
How has technology impacted yours or your family's reading and communication habits?
Great post, Toby. I’m a big fan of computers and the internet, but I need regular downtime or I become irritable. Reading is still my favourite method to unwind (of the ones I’d talk about in public anyway).
A librarian friend gave me a lovely picture frame once that held a quote, allegedly by a medieval monk called Thomas à Kempis. Roughly translated:
“I have looked for peace everywhere, and nowhere have I found it, but in a nook, with a book.”
It seems to do something so much more restorative for our brains than anything online/computer/phone related.
Lovely post, and very relevant to our times.
I recently read Cut by Patricia McCormick and was blown away by how that book can be a beacon of hope. So yes, kids should read more. I guess then they would become adults who read more?
I’ve so enjoyed your blog and hope you are feeling better! And as for reading, we writers can only hope for more readers, right?
Here, here. I know reading can be an excuse not to write but it sure is a good one. Especially all the fabulous books that are coming out these days. I even think writing is improving.