Dr. Carol Hall-Whittier

Communication throughout the ages has its foundation in writings that began even before the invention of paper and printing press, eventually leading to the invention of books. The creation of books has enabled people in every culture to maintain the thoughts of former generations, to share ideas, to find enjoyment and entertainment in a variety of stories, genres and other print materials.

With the end of the 20th century and the onset of the 21st century, we can see the emergence of the age of technology. There are myriad ways to secure information, to share ideas and to write creatively.   Social media has developed into an all-encompassing network used by the public to inform, share information, lead discussions and respond to the ideas of others. The games and applications on smart phones, iPads and Kindles have expanded the options and choices for reading and communicating with others.

This leads us to a very important question. Are books becoming obsolete? Or we could even ask if reading books for enjoyment or for information has become obsolete. Let us consider another important question. Are kids, today, reading books on their digital devices?

The first place to go to get answers to our questions is the library.Academic, public and school libraries are experiencing a shift in how they are used by their communities and society. Libraries are not just a place for books, but research shows that families are increasing their access to the digital media with the support of the library. Libraries are moving from the traditional service to provide books and resources to the public. They are now an all-inclusive place for the building of knowledge and creativity through books, technology and the community.

Libraries and book stores are places where various kinds of book requests and purchases can be measured. Book stores and libraries both show an increase in the number of e-books being requested. Libraries have discovered that patrons have become increasingly eager to access content in digital formats that are compatible with popular e-reader devices. While most teens say they still would rather read print books, the increased interest in e-books, combined with the fact that more than 40% of teens already own or plan to buy an iPad, Kindle Fire, iPad Mini, iPhone, or iTouch, suggests that children’s e-book sales are certain to steadily rise.

Although there is an increase in the number of e-book requests, print books “remain the foundation of Americans’ reading habits,” as reported by Pew researchers. The researchers reported that most people who read e-books also read print books and only 4% of readers described themselves as “e-book only.”

We’ve looked at the information relating to the types of books that are being requested: e-books vs. print books. Let’s now consider how many Americans are actually reading. Just because the numbers for technology-supported books are increasing, it doesn’t mean that there are an increased number of children and adults who are reading.

Fewer Americans are reading books. About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year.   One can surmise that poor reading skills in certain populations of Americans may be a cause. The busy schedules for many Americans, or even our inability to detach from our phones many be taking us away from a relaxing endeavor such as reading.

In education, Paulo Freire (2004) put forth the concept of “conscientization.” He developed this thinking as a foundation for his literacy program. This philosophy proposes that groups and individuals who are unable to read and write are considered victims of society. Individuals who don’t – or won’t – read are also victims of society. Therefore, the important goal is for students and adults alike to continue to read – whether it is print books or e-books.

Dr. Carol Whittier is an experienced educator who has worked in an urban school district as a principal, instructional leader and teacher for over 34 years. Dr. Whittier is adept in providing leadership training for principals, staff, and parents. She is especially interested in providing professional development for school personnel in the areas of transformational leadership; collaborative cultures; literacy learning; and effective use of assessments and evaluations to perfect the practice of professionals who are preparing students to live in a democratic society.


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