Whatever the medium, literacy of vital importance

Thursday, September 5, 2019

There’s something about the smell and feel of opening a new book, and the tactile experience involved in reading a well-worn volume can be even more engaging.

There will always be a place for the printed word, ink pressed on paper, treasured on a book shelf and accessible for decades without using a milliwatt of electricity.

But more and more of us are reading on the screen of a tablet or even a smart phone, caring not a whit whether we have a copy to take up space on in a book case, only to be sold for a quarter at a garage sale a few years hence.

Libraries are finding more and more of their customers dropping in only for internet access, physical copies of books relegated to less and less space as readers begin scanning screens instead.

Sadly, the trend can create a short attention span -- watch this cat video! -- that can rob us of the experience of losing ourselves in the world created by a talented contemporary writer, an old classic, a biography or even a textbook carrying information vital for a future career.

Ebooks, like any medium, are neutral, capable of carrying works like Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” or the Bible. Personally, we find the readers that mimic natural paper easier on the eyes than glowing tablets.

Whatever the medium, the message remains key, which is the point of Sept. 6’s National Read a Book Day.

U.S. Cellular, which helps deliver ebooks to the 90.5 million people in the U.S. who use their smartphone or tablet for reading, offers the following ideas for teaching youth the importance of reading and writing:

-- Volunteer as a reading buddy. Reading is important to a child’s education and future. Find locations near you where you can read at schools or volunteer with local organizations focused on reading. The influence and guidance of the volunteers help children gain the confidence and skills to practice their reading both inside and outside of the classroom.

-- Make reading fun. Using a smartphone or tablet, there are several apps that promote literacy development in an exciting way. Apps, such as Aesops Quest, allow kids to have fun playing a virtual game while enhancing their reading skills.

-- Set yourself up for success:

-- Think long term. Reading skills are essential to success in education and the working world. Apps, such as Wordscapes, allow the user to expand their vocabulary and practice their spelling, while providing a stress-free experience.

-- Start a book club with co-workers or friends. Reading with your community not only offers accountability, but develops relationships. If members cannot meet, they can virtually discuss the reading with each other.

-- Set reading goals. Set personal reading goals, such as reading one book a month. Studies have shown that regularly reading improves memory, concentration and helps keep the mind young and sharp. A Kindle, Apple iPad or Samsung tablet can make reading in your free-time easy and attainable.

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