At the Women's march

At the Women's march
All Lives Matter

Never Again

Never Again
We Won't Go Back

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reading and the Internet

I have been away from these pages this last month because I was so busy being a grandmother that I didn't have time to write about grandmothering. Our middle daughter, Jenny, who lives in Germany, was visiting here with her two daughters, and the time flew by. We honored two family traditions -- took a house on the New Jersey shore with them, plus our eldest daughter, Nancy, and her two daughters for a week; took the whole gang plus our youngest daughter, Dorri, with boyfriend and dog, for a few days to a friend's house in the country; and then enjoyed a little bit of what there is to enjoy in New York City and here in Port Washington.

In between the various activities and events, one of the granddaughters' favorite pastimes was reading. Lisa and Maika, who both read German and English, alternated between books in one language or the other. Anna read a fantasy novel ("I don't know what I would do if I couldn't read," she told me), and Nina laughed over Katie Davis's new chapter book. Nancy and Jenny were reading "Water for Elephants," one with a library copy, one with a battered paperback. And all of this gladdened me, as a former English major. (Maybe being an English major alters the DNA of your children?)

So I didn't personally identify with the issues raised in an article in yesterday's New York Times, about a falling off of reading for fun among today's young people. Still, while bemoaning the loss of this time-honored and valuable ability, it was interesting to realize the different skills sharpened by surfing the Net and how these skills may actually complement their reading. So far reading books seems to lead to higher reading achievement than reading on the Internet, but this may change. As the article says, "Reading five Web sites, an op-ed article and a blog post or two, experts say, can be more enriching than reading one book."

In any case, the article emphasizes one more major way in which our grandchildren's lives are not only different from our lives, but different from their parents' too. You can access the article at I'll be interested in other opinions about this societal shift.


Edna said...

What a fun time you must have had with your children and grandchildlren! I, too, am grateful that my grandchildren love to read. I have 17 now and the ones that can't read love to be read to.

Boondock Ma (Kim's Mom) said...

Happy to see you were able to make some great new memories with your family.

My children enjoy reading too. It is with a mixture of emotions that I note other people's comments about my avid little readers. It makes me proud as a parent, but at the same time, a bit sad that it is seen as exceptional these days.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow writer, I love it that your grandchildren are readers. My step-grandchild is a little young yet, having just been born on June 30, 2008, but I hope to influence her in that direction. Neither my stepson or his Thai wife are readers, so I want to offer that joy to little Natalie. I'll start reading to her as soon as she's ready.

Nina Lewis said...

I'm glad you posted the URL to the NY Times article. I liked the simile that reading on the Internet is 'empty calories.' (Like you, I was an English major. . . .) I tend to agree that reading books develops cognitive skills more than the skim reading that is done on the Internet.

I read another article that said reading fiction helps people develop compassion and empathy. I don't believe web reading does that.

It's good that you can enjoy books with your grandchildren. I plan to -- once our little Spencer gets a wee bit older

Anonymous said...

This is a great topic.

As a GenYer, I totally empathize with older generations in regard to reading books. I come from a family of educators, Mom was an English teacher, Aunts and Uncles are university professors. My mother read to me as a child and was abhorred that I did not like to read (think "it is unrealistic to expect all children to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Pride and Prejudice” for fun").

While I hated reading in High School, now my room could be confused with a poorly ordered book store. The reason - I started reading what I wanted to read.

Sally Wendkos Olds said...

To DR: I'm really glad that you love reading now. Good books take us to so many wonderful places. I think that many schools these days encourage kids' reading by giving them books that they like to read -- and by offering them choices. I was amazed when Anna, at about age 13, read Hemingway's "The Old Man & the Sea" for school. I would have thought it was too advanced for that age group, but she loved it. And her experience with "To Kill a Mockingbird" in high school was good too. Your experience shows that parents & grandparents shouldn't despair if kids don't like reading at young ages. There's always time to discover a good book!