From The New York Times:
When I was 13, in the early 1990s, I dug through my parents’ cache of vinyl records from the ’60s and ’70s. We still had a phonograph, so I played some of them, concentrating on the Beatles. Their bigger hits were inescapably familiar, but a number of their songs were new to me.
Were I a teenager in 2015, I may not have found “Lovely Rita” or acquired an early taste at all for the Liverpudlian lads. The albums stacked up next to the record player, in plain sight for years, would be invisible MP3s on a computer or phone that I didn’t own. Their proximal existence could have been altogether unknown to me.
S. Craig Watkins, a professor who studies the digital media behavior of young people in the department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin, said that he and his family almost exclusively stream music now in their home and that he and his wife stored their old CDs in a seldom-used cabinet. To his teenage daughter, “those CDs are, at best, background matter,” he said.
“I can’t recall her ever taking time to search through what’s in there,” Professor Watkins said. “But I could imagine that when she gets a little older, it might become meaningful to her — that those artifacts are a way to connect back to us.”
Sometimes, though, he and his daughter discuss what is on their devices’ playlists.
. . . .
Aside from the disappearance of record crates and CD towers, the loss of print books and periodicals can have significant repercussions on children’s intellectual development.
Perhaps the strongest case for a household full of print books came from a 2014 study published in the sociology journal Social Forces. Researchers measured the impact of the size of home libraries on the reading level of 15-year-old students across 42 nations, controlling for wealth, parents’ education and occupations, gender and the country’s gross national product.
. . . .
After G.N.P., the quantity of books in one’s home was the most important predictor of reading performance. The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance.
. . . .
The implications are clear: Owning books in the home is one of the best things you can do for your children academically. It helps, of course, if parents are reading to their children and reading themselves, not simply buying books by the yard as décor.
“It is a big question of whether it’s the books themselves or the parental scholarly culture that matters — we’re guessing it’s somewhere in between,” said Mariah Evans, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Reno. “The books partly reflect intelligence.”
Although the study did not account for e-books, as they’re not yet available in enough countries, Dr. Evans said in theory they could be just as effective as print books in encouraging literacy.
“But what about the casual atmosphere of living in a bookish world, and being intrigued to pull something off the shelf to see what it’s like?” she asked. “I think that will depend partly on the seamless integration of our electronic devices in the future.”
We’re not quite there. Amazon Kindle’s Family Library enables two adults in a household to share content with each other and up to four children. But parents must explicitly select which of their books their kids can read. So much for the “casual atmosphere of living in a bookish world.”
Will parents go out of their way to grant access to their latest book to their 9-year-old?
. . . .
But the decline of print journalism means that millions of children are eating breakfast at tables without any reading material other than what they bring. That hypothetical 9-year-old may not be inclined to read an op-ed about Syria in the family’s copy of the newspaper, but at least that child sees the headline and is reminded of the existence of the outside world, for better or worse. And it would take very curious teenagers to read, during a hurried meal before school, an adult periodical online over whatever they typically default to on their own devices.
Digital media trains us to be high-bandwidth consumers rather than meditative thinkers.
Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Dave for the tip.
PG suggests that the decline of The New York Times (and accompanying layoffs) appear to have colored the author’s view of physical books and newspapers.
The younger members of Clan PG are digital natives. They’ve grown up around computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. Finding information that fascinates them is emphatically not a challenge for these little people.
PG was about to relate anecdotes, but he will restrict himself to saying both monster truck and lemur aficionados can feed their interests easily and to a great depth online.
As a lifelong lover and rabid consumer of printed books, PG believes the digital world presents much richer possibilities for expanding an inquisitive child’s horizons and satisfying their quest for understanding and delight than the largest of home libraries.
And, considering those of modest means, how many printed books can you buy for the price of a $50 Kindle Fire? $50 does not buy most people weekly trips to the local library for very long.