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Reading Is Hard! (In Defence of Real Books)

Posted: 11/09/11 01:03 PM ET

There's a video going around of a baby who's using the hand gestures you'd use on an iPad when leafing through a magazine. This video kind of pissed me off. Or not the video, but rather the father's commentary: the baby doesn't understand how a magazine works because she's so used to an iPad!

Bitch, please. The baby doesn't understand how pages work because you've never showed her a book before. Sure you showed her an iPad and got her to tap on apps and slobber all over the screen and perhaps you even read her some digital pages, but what you haven't done is show her a real, old-fashioned book. How does a one-year-old not know how to turn pages?

This is the part where I tell you about my genius son who's been read to since he was an infant and who's got shelves of books and who loves to be read to and who can now (at two-years-old) actually sit quietly for a long time flipping pages and "read" to himself, and how wonderful it is and how proud it makes me feel to see him do that. There. Done. Told you that.

But what I really want to say is that nothing replaces reading books with your kid -- not just because it's about appreciating this "outdated" art form (of print), but because reading with kids is one of those activities that's fulfilling for all parties involved. There's the story, the pictures, the satisfying physical activity of turning pages (instead of skating with your fingertips on the capricious iPad screen) and also the fact that you have to sit side by side and enjoy each other's physical presence. This -- combined with the parent telling the story, the child's ability to ask questions, and even the parent not worrying about the toddler breaking the goddamned book when he/she throws it during a tantrum -- this is what makes reading books one of those unique bonds between a kid and a parent.

With an iPad children's book you have many options. The pages turn for you. The characters talk to you. You can shake the tablet to make the characters fall or flip, like in the iPad Alice in Wonderland. You can have your book in 3-D, you can tap a button to have an automated mom or dad read to you (parents can record their own voice), you can make characters dance on a page -- none of which is possible with a real book. It's not only super easy and super extra fun, it's also perfect for the mind that doesn't want to make too much effort. And it removes that major connection -- I mean, why would I want to read to my toddler if I can just click a button on a screen and have a perfectly pronounced recording do the job? ( Eventually we'll all just fall into the habit of clicking buttons on everything because it's easier. At the end of our lives we'll click one big button to go and [bleep] ourselves for good.)

Every night after a bath, either my partner or I will read to the toddler. Some weeks we read the same six books over and over (per the toddler's request). It's kind of boring for us. No, sometimes, it's mind-crushingly boring. (Really? You want to read Duckie Doesn't Wear Diapers again? FML.) Often, I think how I'd prefer to watch TV instead, or shove an iPad at the toddler; plug him right into a reading app so he'll leave me the hell alone. But listen, there's nothing better than to have that warm little body sit next to you, helping you turn the pages as he whispers parts of the story and asks about the characters. And, as you put the book away, he'll rush to the shelf to grab another book and, with his big round eyes staring and his pointing finger waving at you, he'll say, "One more, mommy. One more book, peas."

Originally published on they don't tell you.

 

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