Literacy and thinking in a digital age

SOME TIME AGO, a local newspaper carried an article on child development regarding literacy in a digital age.  

The concern was that with the greater volume of information available digitally in multimedia forms, children today may become adept computer users (computer literate) but not information literate, thereby impacting effective thinking skills.

With our increasing emphasis on multmedia (which is more visual than text-based), we may thus fail our children by not ensuring they develop a good reading habit and associated reading and thinking skills.

This ability to read becomes important as much of credible information today remains in print. Children must be able to successfully access (read) print, which will in turn allow them to think more effectively.

It follows then that they must develop the ‘reading’ brain.

Then again, should we not be worried at all, that this is just another phase in our evolution? That the reading brain will give way to the ‘multimedia’ brain?

Socrates had similar fears about the transmission of wisdom when written word came on the scene to challenge oral communication some 5,000 years ago.

Today, more and more of print material is being digitised. The digital library is a reality. This can be seen by the growing multimedia sections in our public libraries.

Our concerns expressed here may appear inflated since much of the world remains unconnected. Indeed, in some places in Africa, Asia and South America the oral tradition still hold sway with wisdom still passed down by word of mouth.

However, the connected minority in our world has access to power to radically change the physical world. Thus the importance of addressing the reading issue to ensure our children of the connected age has access to our collective wisdom in print (or in ebooks) to produce the thinking individual of the future.

Some tips on cultivating the reading habit to promote literacy and thinking for a lifetime:

Be a reader yourself
Lead by example. Our children must see us reading and enjoying it. Make it a point to highlight interesting items you read about, and share your thoughts on them.

Visit the public library / major bookstores as a family
This helps to ensure that you have good reading material at home. Start always with what each child enjoys. My 7-year-old nephew is crazy about dinosaurs. He thus gravitates to books about them. Or it could the current best-sellers like the latest Harry Potter novels for the tweens or teens. The major bookstores usually have a weekly or monthly list of recommendations for children. And when they are home, have TV-less evenings to spend time reading.

Have reading-aloud sessions
This is most applicable for the younger children as they are learning to read. But this does not prevent older children from sitting down to listen to a good story. It thus has a potential of becoming a family congregating session.

Link books being read to their TV/movie adaptations
Contemporary book-movie adaptations include the recent Harry Potter books and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Others include classics like Robinson Crusoe, Wind in the Willows, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Little Women, etc. Encourage your child to read the book, and then watch the movie. You now have the opportunity to create a discussion point comparing the relative strengths of story presentations in the different media.



  Related articles: The National Library - only a click away! League of extraordinary boys and girls