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.