There are No Books!

According to a quote by Ray Bradbury "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." I love this quote both as a writer and as a teacher. More so as a teacher. I teach 8th graders so I hear, "I hate to read," pretty often.

I love it when I take them to the library in the first week telling them they all need to have a book in their hands before they leave. There are a handful in each class who dive toward the stacks knowing exactly what kind of book they're looking for. A few others meander around checking covers and skimming backs of books. Two of three more wander aimlessly not even really picking up a book or getting too close. At the end of the class those two are still circling--looking for a place to land. I've spent most of the class talking to my meanderers. What do you like to read? What do you like to do when you're not at school? What's your favorite movie? As I walk with them pulling books off the shelf and handing them out talking fast, selling them like a prize winning used car salesman. Inevitably, one student will still be circling having rejected every book I've thrown his or her way. You need to pick something, I remind. I get an eye roll, a helpless toss of the hands and the classic, "There aren't any books here!"  Right. No books. In the library.

Insert teacher head shake at that point. Usually I press a book in their hands, one I've chosen, and ask they they give me the first three chapters. If they don't like it by then we'll pick something else out. My batting average is pretty good, if I do say so myself.

I have to say that the onset of ereaders have sort of revolutionized reading in the classrooms. Five years ago, reading was lame. No one wanted to read. They would act like I was asking them to cross the Sahara on their knees with no water when I told them to pull out their books. Since we let them use their Kindles and Nooks, reading is kind of cool again. It's been pretty wild. Kids who admit that two years ago they just guessed on all their Reading Counts tests are actually finishing books because they're on an electronic device. They're also reading more often. Carrying a paperback around with you apparently marks you as a loser or a geek in the junior high world (seriously I never cared--I'm a geek and proud of it), but an iPhone or iPod is just standard equipment. So, they'll read more often if their book is on the iPhone.

It's interesting to see this. I wonder where it's going to lead in the future. Are we all going to have ereaders? Are our textbooks going to simply be $100 downloads? What will my four year old be wandering around with on a college campus in (well, let's just not do that math) years?

Science fiction. Very cool when it's science fact. I love this quote by Ray Bradbury. I thought I was starting to see this. Ten years ago it was painful to pull the students through a book. They complained! Now, I'm starting to see more and more kids reading--albeit electronically. I'll take it. It think this could start to turn the tide and keep Bradbury's cautionary tale of cautionary illiteracy from becoming our reality.


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