What’s A Book?

Most kids today have no clue what a typewriter is.  Most have never seen a rotary telephone.  Some may have seen examples of that ancient technology known as the VCR, but probably only in their grandparent’s attic or garage.  Our kids may read more printed books than electronic ones, but that very well could change in the future.  Perhaps it is worthwhile to make sure that our children know that there is value in books that can’t be found online.

One way to do that is by using books to sell books — such as author Lane Smith does in It’s a Book.  In the story, three characters, a mouse, a monkey, and a jackass, interact with the action centering on a book.  The jackass, raised on a diet of online video games and interactive websites, asks a serious of annoying and, frankly, silly questions about the book.  “Does it need a password,” he asks.  “How do you scroll down?”

Sounds like a hilarious idea and a great way to get kids into reading, right?  Not according to some school districts in Massachusetts.  Two districts there have banned the book due to its use of the word “jackass”, despite, as the author describes it, “a rich tradition in children’s books.”  He cites Aesop, the Brothers Grimm, and, of course, Pinocchio.

Personally, I don’t have an issue with the word; I know my kids have heard and will undoubtedly continue to hear much worse words.  I do think the schools are being overly protective.  The bigger question for me, however, is whether or not books should go the way of the VHS tape, the vinyl record, and Polaroid film in the face of more convenient formats?  Mind you, I’m not suggesting we abandon the written word in favor of film or some such nonsense; I’m just curious as to whether or not books need to be printed on paper any more.

I’ll admit that I love to curl up somewhere comfortable with a good book and just read but I’ve also seen the Amazon Kindle and I am so impressed with the quality of the screen that I might be able to be convinced to switch formats.  On the other hand, however, I’ll also note that I also own somewhere around 1,500 compact discs because I don’t like the idea of purchasing a digital file that is too easily lost.  I know, of course, that CDs and, perhaps even more so, books are every bit as vulnerable to loss as digital files, but I still can’t help but want a physical copy of an album.  I must wonder if I feel the same about books.

It’s not about me at all, though.  The question really applies to my kids — will they want to continue reading books printed on dead trees or will they prefer to read them on something like the Kindle?  Does it matter, so long as they are reading?  I’m inclined to think that so long as they’re reading, and reading something worthwhile and of good quality, it really doesn’t matter how they read it.  What do you think?

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