Okay, I am not saying the book is dead. No way. But reading is changing. It already has.
And this change will continue. And our schools MUST get on the bus if we are to serve the needs of our students in a manner that is authentic to the needs they will have over the course of the next few decades.
Responding to reading in schools is changing as well. After all, for a whole lot of years our schools have been almost Pavlovian about the manner by which we operate:
Red this book… write this essay… repeat.
Now our nation’s best teachers don’t do this — they always bring life to the classroom — but come on, we know that a whole lotta of American classrooms operate — or at least prior to the year 2000 — operated, very much in this manner… with the occasional speech/presentation mixed in to add some flavor, of course. (And don’t forget the bubble test! LOL.)
But I was just reading Thomas Newkirk’s book The School Essay Manifesto: Reclaiming the Essay for Students And Teachers (yes, that Thomas Newkirk… the man who wrote the quite popular new book Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For) where Barry Lane says in the intro: “Newkirk’s basic hypothesis is that the school essay as we know it is an obsolete assignment that evolved out of the need for teachers and textbook companies to control student writing, organize student’s thoughts and more easily grade writing assignments.”
Wow, powerful stuff!
And this is why I say the book is dead. Because it no longer is the emperor-type ruler which it once was. Books are being forced to make space on the mountaintop.
It’s also why reading — and writing — as they exist in our schools (how we teach/what we teach) is changing. BECAUSE IT MUST! While we are doing some things well, we are also doing some things poorly and the advent of technology allows us to rid ourselves of what is stale and ineffective (prosperous as some of these “educational solutions” have been for some folks over the past few decades) and bring in a host of “new” tools that add to new abilities to our arsenal. Gunpowder changed warfare. The Steam engine changed transportation. Microprocessors have changed reading.
Fact is, there are new literacies out there — new ways of reading, new tools to use to read, new, new, new. I mean, as I type this right now, there is probably somebody inventing yet another way for me to interact with text of somehow. Truly, I never even knew what hyperlinking was when I earned my master’s degree. Now, well, it’s fundamental to my blogging because reading has changed and readers have changed right along with it.
So the book is dead. At least as the grand emperor, primary, if not sole, mechanism of all reading. I still do not know how comfortable I am with this idea, but just because I do not like the reality of something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Room has to be made at the top of the mountain for more than just dead tree books (which are the primary passion of my life. After all, I read them, I write them, I feed my family by them. Trust me, dead tree books are HUGE to me… and still I blog on a ning.)
Yep, the book is dead. But long live the book!!