Saturday, 4 January 2014

Children's Literacy in the Digital Age

I can sometimes be quite critical of the internet, I suppose in some ways I am an old soul, wanting to preserve human aspects of life that seem to be being replaced with technology. Like children painting on iPads/tablets instead of on paper with paint...sure, it diminishes mess, and probably the cost in the long run, but what about the experience of painting? The same goes for communicating of course, although we cannot deny the benefits it brings to our way of living - we don't yet know the costs social networks etc. will have on our future notion of self - when this generation of selfie-takers and snap-chatters grow into adults, parents and leaders.

But what about reading? I used to think reading had to be a book, printed pages - just look at my "the kindle temptation" post to see how I felt conflicted over the notion of e-books. But then I came across some children's reading material in which books are now available online - stories are like flip charts - and children are encouraged to read aloud with the voice over.

This is clearly a sign of the times and crucially meets the needs and desires of these generations. Zadie Smith recently discussed how she considers books to now have to compete with an abundance of images in our lives, and this is so true, not least with children's literature. Characters who talk to you, who engage you, who allow you to be a part of the story, interactively, whilst all the time making you read - this is the future of children's literature. This is where it has to go. For a book to compete with video games and TV to capture a child's attention, it has to now be more than pop up pictures or sound-buttons. It has to enter into a child's world, which is now one of the internet and apps. Life is now lived on-screen and reading needs to respond to this.

The primary goal has to be literacy. We have a generation of people who will surpass the adult generation in digital literacy - there are schools across the globe already teaching it as a language. However, we must not forget the importance of English literacy. It doesn't matter how we get children reading, as long as that's what we do; we need to encourage literacy in the UK whereby text language and abbreviations do not become part of children's formal reading and therefore day-to-day vocabulary.

As for the second goal of reading - inspiring a child's imagination - if we can use technology to help children develop their creativity by combining the usual words, colour and images of a child's story with sounds, voices and movement, then we should.

In my opinion, bed-time reading for a child should always be a tangible book which necessitates the turning of a page - not least because screens have been proven to stimulate the mind before bed. Nevertheless, in this ever-evolving technological climate, it is imperative that children's literature engages with their world today - even if that means clicking a button instead of turning the page.

No comments:

Post a Comment