The cause is cell phones, computers, the Internet, television, interactive games and a world that has moved away from the printed word and toward visual stimuli.
The trouble seems to be that, like the old joke, does it come with pictures? Short. Sweet. To the point. Short. Attention. Spans. In large measure, it is the result of social media acronyms, emojis, and media types who want to deliver messages quickly and with little fuss.
Words do not have to be printed on paper. Tablets, phones and computer screens can be jam packed with them. They are waiting to be discovered. How do we get young people reading again?
Mallick: Why Canadian kids canít read
How does a smart but untutored child become an autodidact, a self-teacher? You need good teachers who introduce you to books. And a book source.
By Heather Mallick
Fri., May 20, 2011
I am staring at a fourth-year university student who is headed for an M.A. in political science next September. I am teaching Introductory Journalism. I have asked him to write a brief review of something ó a novel or film, perhaps ó he can describe, compare and plausibly rate.
He has never read a book.
No, nothing beyond assigned reading, which I suspect he has not done either. He has never seen a documentary. In the end, we settle on Batman movies, which it turns out he is unable to describe in sequence or place in context by reading about Batman movies online, but I pass him because the department head ó itís a fairly new university ó relays to me complaints from students who suspect I might fail them. I fail no one.
The long, painful span between this student, who wonít read, and a man named Francis Spufford, the cleverest man in England ó ďplease stop calling me that,Ē he says ó who canít not read, is worth studying.
Spufford, whom I interviewed over a three-hour lunch in London, wrote a book called The Child That Books Built, about his fraught childhood whose pains he escaped by reading. His little sister was dying slowly of a rare kidney disease, his parents were ďgrey-skinned with fatigueĒ caring for her, and it was all very bad. So Spufford read. He was a one-child reading industry.
I seek an explanation of the phenomenon that the novelist Jonathan Franzen calls ďsocial isolates.Ē These fortunate children lock into reading, ďgazing at experience through the mesh of paragraphs,Ē as Spufford describes it. They can grow up hyper-social, deeply interested in humans, but ďthe most important dialogue in their life is with the authors of the books they read.Ē
How does a smart but untutored child become an autodidact, a self-teacher? You need good teachers who introduce you to books. And you need a book source. ďThese things have got to be there in your environment for you to luck into find them,Ē Spufford says. ďIs your public library system being shredded like ours?Ē I shudder to tell him that we have destroyed our school libraries already, and the public libraries are next.
The rest here.