Reading, Writing, and Literacy in the iPad Age

This afternoon I read an entertaining and thought-provoking post by Craig Campbell on ACVoice titled Eric Carle and iPad Babies. Craig raises questions about a generation of “multi-taskers” raised on digital rather than physical media in a world that is increasingly quick to diagnose children with ADHD.

My thoughts, of course, immediately go to my students. Every year I take on 120-150 fresh-faced young charges and get 181 days to instill in them a healthy appreciation for reading and a burgeoning talent for writing. And every year I’m heartbroken by their almost universal inability to focus long enough to finish even a single page of challenging text. This, I tell myself, is exactly why I have a house full of books. It is also why I go out of my way not only to read to my daughter, but to make that time as rewarding and enriching as possible. As she grows up, I want her to simply love reading.

But here I am at my in-laws watching her play with their iPad. And here I am again telling them in no uncertain terms that my 2-year-old does NOT need one of her own.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m neither a technophobe nor a reactionary. My wife and I both have tablets. I use my iPad in the classroom, on the practice field, and in my personal life. My daughter typically gets to play with it for at least few minutes most days. We keep a close eye on her and try very hard to limit that time, though.

Which brings me to my real question: Why? Is it really that big of a deal?

I was an avid video-game player growing up. I practically cut my teeth on an Atari 2600 and spent my formative years growing from the NES to its Super successor and their “boyish” little brother. As my teen years became my twenties, the PS1 became an N64 which was replaced by a PS2 that now shares shelf space with a Nintendo Wii. And I’m already trying to find a way to save up for a WiiU once the 2013 blitz of promised first-party titles makes it worth the money.

On top of all that, I also watched an unhealthy amount of television and blew thousands of dollars at movie theaters.

Add in martial arts, track and field, football, running, weight lifting, and eventually rugby, it’s amazing to think I had the time or the energy to focus on ANYTHING for longer than a few minutes at a time, let alone a book.

But in spite of it all, I was and am still an avid and inquisitive reader.

So I suppose it can be done.

And is a two-year-old spending twenty minutes playing Endless Alphabet really such a bad thing?

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