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A LUDDITE’S JOURNEY ON THE E-WAY OF LIFE part 2

December 7, 2011 2 comments

“…and I’d like to thank, along with the Nobel Prize Committee,

Teddy Ruxbin for teaching me to read…”

A Short Cautionary Tale for the Holidays

 

Okay, so I’ve just aged myself by mentioning Teddy Ruxbin…and for those of you who are TOO YOUNG to know what I’m talking about, I’ll explain.

Teddy Ruxbin was/is an animated “talking” toy bear that “reads” stories while its eyes and mouth move. Adorable. It was the best selling toy in both 1985 (when it hit the shelves) and again in 1986, and its newest version won the 2006 Best Animated Interactive Plush Toy Award. Wow. I suspect the newer version comes equipped with microchips and mini-computers, but the original was operated via sticking an audio cassette into the deck built into its back (and for those of you who don’t know what an audio cassette is…look it up). Granted, we can look back at it now and smile at its “quaintness,” but at the time it was a marvel of modern engineering.

And every parent rushed right out to buy one.

For their child.

Because it was so unique.

And marvelous.

And inventive.

And it kept their children happy.

And quiet.

And occupied.

It became their child’s best friend. An animated toy…that read them stories and sang and rolled its eyes…but couldn’t hold them or cuddle them or interact in any real and lasting way.

But it kept them occupied.

Which gave parents both a “sanity break” and some usually very needed time to do what parents needed to do. Besides, it was just a toy to keep kids occupied, right? Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Come on, you know what my answer is going to be.

I could say that I was incredulous when I first saw the commercials, and doubtful that such a supposedly innovative “toy” would be beneficial to a child’s sense of interpersonal relationships and the importance of reading skills. Well, I could have said that if I was a Psychology major, but I’m a Luddite and hold a degree in English/Creative Writing.

I HATED IT ON SIGHT! Why would someone somewhere think it was a good idea to create something that took the place of a warm lap, a cuddle and the age-old “point at the word as you say it” method of reading to a child?

AUGH!

Now, before you lift me onto your shoulders in adoration, let me quickly add that while my sons were young I let them have every new Video and computer game their little hearts desired.

What, you say, YOU the Queen of the Luddites. Why?

Because, as I writer I needed time to write. Selfish, huh? Perhaps, and there’s a good possibility that I’ll spend eternity shoveling hot coals when I finally kick off this mortal coil, but, in my defense—I did read to them, every night at bedtime and whenever they needed a cuddle and quiet moment during the day. I had my time, they had their time…and we shared our time.

As a result, my sons are both wonderful young men and complete computer geeks who laugh at their mother and roll their eyes when (on occasion) she needs e-help. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

(Didn’t I say something about this being a

short tale?)

So now, here it is…another Holiday Season and TV ads abound with the glories and wonder of E-readers. And, if you read my first Blog, you know how I feel about that.

Bah and Humbug.

But who cares what I think. The Parent’s Choice Blog (blog.parents-choice.org) recounted two New York Time articles which I have cut-and-pasted (my sons told me how to do that) below:

As technology and tastes morph, reading habits follow suit. Two recent New

York Times articles highlight the rise of one children’s reading habit and the decline of another.

A recent Scholastic survey suggests that, contrary to many parents’ beliefs, emerging digital technology could be a boon for those trying to get children to read more. According to the survey, 25% of children “said they had already read a book on a digital device, including computers and e-readers.” Another 57% of survey-takers, aged 9 to 17, said they would be interested in doing so. As children spend an increasing amount of their time plugged into digital devices, parents ought to consider how they can increase the number of books to which their children have access by harnessing e-book potential.

While e-readers gain ground, the Times claims that picture books are losing shelf space to early-reader chapter books. Commenters contest this claim, suggesting that though bookstores may not be selling as many picture books, parents still buy them second hand or borrow them from libraries. Prices, the Times’ readers suggest, are too high for people to be purchasing as many brand new picture books as they did in the past. Regardless of whether picture book readership is actually down, reader comments and the Times interviewees agree: there is no shortage of excellent content in today’s picture books. The article write: “Literacy experts are quick to say that picture books are not for dummies. Publishers praise the picture book for the particular way it can develop a child’s critical thinking skills.” Picture books often have better vocabulary and more nuanced ideas than run-of-the-mill short chapter books. If you want to see proof that the art of the picture book is thriving, check out our Parents’ Choice Award-winning picture books.

Now, believe it or not, I have nothing negative to say about the articles. The facts are correct and, as a writer I’m thrilled to death that there will be a new generation of readers coming into the marketplace. It even indicates how parents can become more involved by looking at the e-books their children are reading and then make efforts to increase the number.

E-Parental e-involvement at its e-finest.

And you don’t even have to be in the same room to do it. Will e-wonders never cease?

As a Luddite I know I’m fighting a losing battle here. E-books will continue and evolve and the kids who are enjoying them now will, one day, download books for their children.

But if there’s any justice in the world, one of those books will be “Don Quixote.”

So there it is. I’ll continue to tip at windmills and hope that one day they might really be giants.

And before I leave you in the mad rush of the Holidaze, one more thing: When you’re out buying your kids the latest and greatest e-stuff, take a moment to indulge in some of the original software: a lap, a cuddle and a storybook to share.

 

Ho ho