Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Are Apps Apt to Abate Adolescent Advancement? Or, is good ole fashion reading the best?

"Is there an app for that?" a question commonly heard these days. But not just among adults. Hand held devices are being found in the possession of more and more children--younger and younger ones. I don't know about you, but this raises a red flag of concern for me. At first I thought my apprehension stemmed from my despair over a picture book I wanted to self-publish and knew I didn't have the means to make it interactive. But the more I have read and contemplated this issue, the more this concern has escalated.
     Tim Myers hit the nail on the head for me in his article in the recent SCBWI Bulletin:
Apple techs told him, “If you’re
going to make a picture book app,
go big or stay home.” In other words,
add more—games, animation, choose
your own adventure, etc. That’s not
wrong in itself. But in our rush to
embrace this technology, we may be
underappreciating a traditional form:
unbroken text.
I think a significant amount of
children’s literature should remain as
unbroken text—words on a page with
nothing else. As parents, teachers,
writers, publishers, and booksellers,
even as citizens, we need this.
Why? Why not make it all

My wife, a literacy expert, PhD,
and director of the master’s reading
program at Santa Clara University, says
that children need to learn many things
in order to read, but primarily “how to
sit quietly and lose yourself in a story”
and other kinds of books. They need to
know firsthand, she says, “how time can
fly when you’re lost in” a world created
purely out of print. A preliminary study
by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, in
fact, found that children showed poorer
comprehension when given more
interactive books.

No matter how interactivity stimulates 
our imaginations, the 
deepest imaginative 
response will still come 
out of our own heads, 
in response to language 
charged with nothing 
but its own power.

I feel that children who don't learn this, and learn to love it, will remain impoverished in ways both practical and otherwise. Tim Myers' article motivated me to not only continue my quest to publish my children's picture book, but purposely keep it in the old fashioned text-and-pictures-only format. Sure, I will make it available as an e-book, but my readers will have to use their imaginations to bring the story to life, not an app.

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