Monday, April 27, 2009

Reading, Texting, Books

When people find out I write YA, the one statement that is inevitably made is: "If you can get teenagers to read." My boys don't read novels, not even the ones their mom writes. (Though I did catch Son #1 reading a draft I left open on the computer and he actually ASKED ME A QUESTION ABOUT PLOT - heart be still...)

Their reason is reading seems too slow, too quiet. They like movies and Spark notes. It was pretty much that way when I taught middle and high school. And they do really like it when I explain symbolism to them, as long as I keep my explanations under a minute and don't ask them if they "get" it. Well, maybe they don't LIKE it exactly, but they smile and nod, and say things like, "Huh, Mom, you're really into this, aren't you?" They don't try to shut the door to their rooms, so I take that as a like.

Yet, they do read a lot, just not novels. All the myspace and texting is literacy, only a different kind. I don't think basic literacy has changed at all, just the medium has.

I felt like my son stopped by the computer and read my draft because he associates the computer with fun things. When I announce happily that I am going to the library, doors close and children instantly vanish in a sudden, StarTrek kind of way.

Over Easter, my brother told me he had two books out. The boys grew perfectly still. I know what they were thinking: "Are we going to have to read those?"

I was thinking: Say what?

He's an illustrator, not a writer, but I took a look anyway. I'm so immature, I kept clicking on the pages to make them turn. And my kids liked looking at it, too, probably because it's visual and not wordy. (And their mom doesn't ask anything like, "So the river -- what do you think THAT means. Water, the soul...) They were allowed just to look. And I'll bet you can tell we were raised right by a beach.

My whole family is weird. For a long time, my brother collected cans. The kids always told me I seemed really normal after they visited their uncles in Staten Island. We had no idea he was doing this.

I know these are just previews to allow you to browse a book electronically, so maybe I'm wrong and the medium isn't changing. Maybe this is just the way marketing is changing and this is how we make decisions now. I'm not sure if this is going to be the way we read.

I like books;I dislike Kindle and reading fiction on the computer. Email and that kind of thing are fine, but leisure reading should not involve a keyboard. I like holding books and carrying them with me wherever I go. I like turning pages and feeling the weight of the book in my hand,though I'm sensing that I am slowing devolving into a dinosaur. Maybe I'm going to be the last person lurking in the bookstore.


Crystal said...

Hi Anne,

Just found your blog! I'm like you with regard to reading. Nothing beats holding the physical book in your hand. I like turning the pages, too, and being able to flip back to a section that's so good you have to re-read it. Don't worry, you WON'T be the last person lurking in a bookstore because I'll be there, too!

Anne Spollen said...

Hey, Crystal! Thanks for stopping by! That's great -- we'll be a fringe group hanging out in the bookstore.

Christy Raedeke said...

What did your parents do to raise such oddly creative children? (And, I'm sure you know, I say "oddly creative" with the greatest reverence and respect.) Were you a no-TV household? No sugar? Were they creative? What's the secret?

Anonymous said...

So how is it you are Anne SPOLLEN and your brother is Chris SPOLLEN and you are married?

Loved Shape of water btw and picked it for my free choice book report.

chelsea : )

PS You really are a talented family. I write and draw also.

adrienne said...

I like your brother's tin scuptures! You are a talented family.
I like books too. Reading on the computer gives me a headache. So far, my kids still like to curl up with a good book.

Mary Witzl said...

Believe me, you won't be the last one in the bookstore. There'll be a whole bunch of us in there, fearful and nervous; you'll be able to spot us right away because of the smell of pulp. And the sound of fluttering pages...

You're right about the medium changing. My students WILL NOT spend any time at all on the written passages in their textbooks, but once they're in front of a computer, boy, watch them go! It really is amazing. My kids do read books, but they're much more comfortable than I am with computer text. (And symbolism leaves them cold; 20 seconds is too long.)

I'll have to go back to your brother's structures: my computer is not allowing me to look at them for some reason.

Katie said...

Wow. chris's book is so cool!

Anne Spollen said...

Ahh, Christy, it's a delicate combination of eating blocks of Velveeta cheese, participating in Irish Catholic mysticism, watching old Twilight reruns and having lots of eccentric relatives to study. (Sadly, we have now become those eccentric relatives...)But that's our recipe.

And Chelsea, you should get extra points for finding the author on the Internet! I'm glad you liked the book - you sound creative and I think creative kids like Shape of Water.

My brothers and I (there's another brother knocking around, too) have the same last name because I never changed my name when I got married.
So my kids have my husband's last name -- that's why/how I can write about them pretty freely here; no one ever connects us because they all think of me as Mrs. XYZ (my husband's last name and the kids' last names) --they don't even know I go by Anne Spollen.

Ok, Adrienne, you are invited to my lunatic fringe party as they close the last bookstore. We'll be like those people who strap themselves to the trees to stop the logging companies.

Mary, you're coming to the party as well. I'm serving mojitos and vegan finger foods.

I think we should accept that kids are the Internet generation and go with it. So many of my friends (they're all teachers) keep complaining about kids on computers. It's like the Internet is inherently evil or something. And you are so lucky that your kids read! (paper I mean)

Thanks, Katie! You should go to his house -- it pretty much looks like that everywhere you look. It makes me look like Martha Stewart in comparison (well, pre felon Martha I mean)