As a knobby kneed seven year old, sporting a bobbed hair cut and a smile fragmented with empty spaces, there were countless evening hours spent snuggled up next to my Dad in the hours before bedtime with an open book propped between us. We went on adventures with Max the dog as he cavorted thorough Paris and fell in love with a poodle named Fifi. We played quidditch with Harry and Ron, and I dreamed of becoming Hermione. There were the orphaned boxcar children who inspired the theme for games of “house” with the neighbors, and National Velvet to remind me that I could always compete with the boys. Eventually, colorful illustrations faded into tiny text, and it was my voice that read aloud until my father drifted off to sleep. I stored those characters all away in the shelves of my mind. They had entire homes, neighborhoods, and social networks in there. I missed them when the cover closed and the ink came to an end, but in my head their imagined world still existed.
Being read to at a young age initiated my hunger for literature. In elementary and middle school, my punishment for sassy comments and fighting with my little brother was given through restricted reading time. I wasn’t given candy or stickers for reading books (as I see so many parents do with their children today), but loved the imagined worlds books created so much that my punishment blocked me from visiting them. Today, living in a realm of Sparknotes, Google, and an addiction to multitasking and gadgets, the incredible power contained within bound paper pages has been largely diminished for my generation. Reading is a chore. Sitting in blue plastic chairs beside the 4th graders I tutored in my second semester away at college, listening to bored monotone voices stumble through word after word in books chosen based on predetermined reading level, I attempted to draw their drifting eyes away from the lure of flashy computer screens. I wanted them to know the imaginary worlds I loved when I was ten. When I told them to read over the summer, they smiled and shook their heads. Why would they spend an hour with a book when it could be spent with a video game instead? I understand the case made for reading-based computer games, but I wish the use of technology to peak interest wasn’t so necessary. I wish the satisfying scent of fresh pages flipped beneath thumbs was universal. I wish that children’s reading became less associated with future success and standardized test scores (though it undoubtedly does impact these two things), and more with developing individual identity and traveling to places beyond the physical world. Technology makes life easier, but not always better. There is something to be said for the simple things. We don’t need Baby Einstein Videos or complex computer games for cognitive development—we just need to continue to read for the sake of the experience