For so many years I’ve heard the same argument: “You wouldn’t read an ebook in bed or in the bath, would you?” I shower, so no – but in three or four years time, they’ll give eBook readers away for free and I won’t think twice about reading them in the bath.
I do, however, find I reach for my iPad in bed. I’m not reading like I used to, I’m watching instruction videos. I love them. I love TED and youtube and all the things they teach me. When I account for my general knowledge, I’d say 80% has come from the TV and the Radio – no reading involved.
So, do we still need to teach children to read? I think it’s a serious question.
When I was at school, after years of unsuccessfully learning my times tables by wrote, a friend brought in a pre-release version of the Sinclair pocket calculator. It might as well have been dropped by a UFO. That truly was a paradigm shifting moment. So much of all that mental arithmetic we used to learn, not to mention log tables and slide rules went out the door that moment. We don’t need to learn how to add up any more, we only need to know how to press the + key and we can be shown how to do that on a video. Most people rarely do anything other than +-x or ÷ in their entire lives maybe the odd %.
All practical skills are far better taught on video than in books.
Who needs inferior, printed images in dusty old books when you have the spectacular images from the greatest galleries around the world available in glowing, ultra-high definition, projected on your 3d wall-sized living room screen?
What is important – the story and the message or the words that contain them and the medium upon which they appear? A word is still a word, even if it isn’t written down. In fact most of man’s trials and tribulations come when the literate insist on setting words in stone and filling books full of rules.
I heard this weekend, that Salman Rushdie say TV is the new literature - I would agree with him. More books are sold than ever before, but their numbers pale into insignificance compared with the numbers watching TV drama. Who needs novels, other than production companies requiring* stories?
We blight our children’s early lives with this desperate desire to reach targeted reading attainment levels, all for political re-election purposes. To what end? The iPad today is like the pocket calculator was way back then. The only words we’ll need to know in future are < • || and > and maybe on and off.
Why do we need to learn to read when the written word will be defunct in the very near future?
(Of course, when I’ve watched all the videos and learned what I need about ActionScript 3 coding to get me up and running, there are a couple of old-fashioned paper books on my bedside table that I might just indulge myself with. After all, I still love the shapes that letters make on paper and in my head – but what do I know – I’m just an old fuddy-duddy the future belongs to the kids.)