It is a common misconception that young people are so obsessed with technology that they shudder at the touch of paper, have forgotten how to use pens, and can only relate to abstract concepts such as ‘likes’ and ‘the internet.’
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As pointed out in this article on The Conversation, the myth is so pervasive that it has affected book-sourcing practices in many school libraries in countries like the United States and Australia, with some abandoning paper books altogether in favor of e-readers. I KNOW. I can hear your horrified gasps from here.
However, it is just that: a myth. Studies show that in fact young people prefer reading physical books, and the more screens and devices they have access to, the less inclined they are to read. In Margaret K. Merga’s article, she presents the following findings from her research of 997 children. Merga writes:
- Children underutilised devices for recreational book reading, even when daily book readers
- Reading frequency was less when children had access to mobile phones.
- Reading in general was less when children were given access to more digital devices.
This is the case for a number of reasons. Reading via an application on a device offers the endless possibility of distraction. It is so easy to switch between apps, to check the answer to every little question that occurs to one while reading, to play games online, to google the name of that person who played the daughter of the person who played the role of the character in the book you’re supposed to be reading in the film adaptation of that other book, no the other one from years ago, yeah her, ooh look what else she was in, I don’t remember her in that, who did she play, oh her hair was weird in that film what’s that style called so I can avoid it forever… You get me. There is also the problem of knowing where to find reading resources online. You cannot simply hand a fourth grader an iPad and tell them to go read a book. What fourth grader is familiar with Project Gutenberg, for example? Additional research shows that while some teenagers do enjoy screen-based reading, the majority of teens who are avid readers prefer actual books.
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Creating an environment that praises and rewards reading is posited as one of the top ways to keep children engaged and interested in reading for pleasure. Encouraging silent reading both in class and at home, and enthusiastic teachers who value the act of reading are also important in cultivating a young person’s love of reading. Allowing young people to select their own reading material is also key in making sure they see reading not as a chore but as something enjoyable and relaxing.
The fact young people aren’t rejecting beloved paper books is a relief to bookworms. After all, what’s not to love? We even love the smell of books! Hopefully these studies can help dispel the idea that techno-rabid young folk have forgotten what ‘books’ are, and libraries can STOP GETTING RID OF THEIR LOVELY PAPER BOOKS OH MY GOD.
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