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World Book Day In a Digital Age

World Book Day In a Digital Age
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Thursday was†World Book Day, a day to celebrate the pleasures of books and of reading.†UNESCO designated March 1 as World Book day 15 years ago; a number of events (such as “Where’s Wally” flash mobs) were held in the UK. A World Book Day website contains†resources for schools, a number of games and a free app featuring six short stories “by some of the best Young Adult authors in the world!”†aAWorld Book Day 2012 YouTube channel that features the “Storytelling Superstar Competition.”†The†World Book Day Twitter account also hosted a “lively discussion about “if you could be a fictional character from any book for a day, who would you be?”; Lyra, the heroine of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy was the top choice.

The Guardian reports that Prime Minister David Cameron pledged his support for the day and declared Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax his favorite children’s book (though let us hope that he his fondness is directed towards the book rather than the movie).

World Book Day is celebrated in 100 countries around the globe though it is not such a big deal here in the US, where there are certainly a number of other events promoting reading and books. Living in the current digital age in which children as just as likely to tap a screen rather than turn a page, it seems all the more necessary to emphasize not just the importance of books but — at the risk of sounding corny — their magic. As awe-inspiring as it is to brush a finger across an iPad screen and see a picture or a video of a character is full colors, or to tap on a word and hear it read out loud, there still is something very special about finding yourself seeing, in your mind’s eyes, Odysseus taunting the Cyclops in his cave as you read Book 9 of Homer’s Odyssey. Some poet uttered the words for that story thousands of years ago and yet they still have the power to entertain and inspire.

Hyperconnectivity and Cognitive Functioning

The jury is still out about whether digital devices will promote more reading, and love of reading and books, in children. A recent Pew Research Center survey considers whether the sort of avid, constant use of technological devices among teenagers and 20-somethings — of the “millennials” — might affect them cognitively. 1,021 technology insiders, critics and students were surveyed about the effects of hyperconnectivity on millennials. 55 percent thought that they will be “wired differently” than older generations, with “good results for finding answers quickly and without shortcomings in their mental processes.” But 42 percent were critical of how hyperconnectivity may alter cognitive functioning, noting that younger generations “would be easily distracted, would lack deep thinking skills and would thirst only for instant gratification.”

Survey participants said that, in 2020, key job skills would include “public problem-solving through cooperative work, searching effectively for information online, and weighing the quality of information.” The “ability to read one thing and think hard about it for hours” will become of “far less consequence” to most people, Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft Incís top researcher, noted. But shortened attention spans could lead to “stagnation in technology and even in literature,” says Alvaro Retena, distinguished technologist at Hewlett-Packard Co. That is, the ability to apply a sustained amount of focus to a topic or problem may not be considered a “key job skill,” but has a definite place in innovation and, it could be argued, in remaining competitive in a global market.

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44 comments

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9:46AM PDT on Jun 15, 2012

will always prefer REAL books

1:02PM PST on Mar 5, 2012

Nothing like the feel of a book in the hand!

12:58PM PST on Mar 5, 2012

I prefer paper books to e-books, e-books are crap as far as I'm concerned

12:02AM PST on Mar 5, 2012

I like reading online BUT nothing in the world would replace books or any printed reading materials!

9:20AM PST on Mar 4, 2012

I've tried digital devices but don't like them when I read. I have books all over the house. You can't take a digital device into the bathtub. That's the best time to read, whi8le you're soaking. Plus books have a wonderful smell to them. The whole experience is great.

6:20PM PST on Mar 3, 2012

I agree with Robert O He has a good point, int he beginning of time. We all made and read with a piece of paper. I love old fashioned stuff, i have a huge book shelf in my bed room, with thousands on history books, and romance novels. And more, i love the smell of books and the feeling of them too. Robert i agree with you all the way, i love book day! That is my kind of holiday.

11:18PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

I love books & dont enjoy the kindle.

5:29PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

April 23 is World Book Night. I just found out I'm giving out 20 brand new copies of Octavia E. Butler's novel Kindred. She was a wonderful author and it's an amazing book. I'm very excited about this!!!

1:00PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

I like many here love the feel of a book in my hand, it like holding hands with my best friend.

11:06AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

Call me "Old School" but I love real books. Over my lifetime and many travels and the gain and loss of many other possessions I have always kept my books and my photographs. I love the look of real books, the feel of them, the different sizes, papers, bindings and typeset, love the artwork in many of them. They are sort of little works of art that I appreciate greatly, and are like old friends. I like seeing a bookshelf lined with lovely books in my home. I like being able to lend them to others, and to reread them or reference passages from them. I have a life long love of real books that I will never want to give up.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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