Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When I'm reading, I do one thing...

The blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is a most useful source for information and discussion about e-books and e-reading devices.  In a January entry, Sarah said this:

But when I'm reading, I do one thing and one thing only...

...and while that may seem bleeding obvious, it's also pertinent, relevant and insightful.  When the kids we teach are accustomed to - expect to? - do multiple things at once, enabled by computers and technology and the internet and so forth, reading remains something that requires focus and attention.  Strikes me that this has usefulness beyond the fun/pleasure of reading: it gives kids a different experience, an opportunity to learn a different skill.  Another skill, along with multitasking.  Getting lost in a book - always excellent.  Being able to focus, also useful.

Here's an extract from the entry, Reading, Writing and Technology: Changing Readers and Reading:

If Cashmore is correct in his predictions for multifunction devices, and if, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - and Flannery O’Connor - insist, everything that rises must converge, the possibility of more functional programs targeted at diverse activities meant for a single device means that readers will have a lot to choose from when they actually sit down to read. As new multi-function devices are appearing in the realm of nearly possible and almost on sale like ships on the horizon line, I find myself looking again and again at how I read, what I read, and whether it’s changed at all.

The following aspect of my reading habits has not changed: reading is one of the very few times I do Only One Thing. Anyone with a uterus knows what I’m talking about: I multitask. Most of the time, I’m researching, writing, using Twitter, writing email, and listening to music. Or, I’m washing bottles and plates, making lunches, serving and preparing dinner, talking to Hubby, refereeing fights over Lego Sir Topham Hat, and possibly also snacking. I never do just one thing at a time... 

But when I’m reading, I do one thing and one thing only because I can’t read and focus on anything else.

For that reason, I adore the comfort and simplicity of a dedicated electronic reading device. I don’t want to have things beeping and alerting me and tempting me to Google whether the price has dropped on that giant thing I wanted. I want to do the one thing that restores my mental batteries and gives me the utter mental isolation and thoughtful peace I crave when I’m exhausted: just reading, nothing but reading, and only, exceptionally reading.

One thing we've been working on in relation to this in our library is the creation of our reading lounge areas, so kids can relax, be comfortable and get lost in reading.  We now have enough comfortable, soft seats for every student in a class of thirty to be sitting in one.  A few still prefer the floor, and we still have the floor cushions; but with every student seated comfortably, they settle down, relax and read far more effectively.  See? It's not just 'decorating'.   Comfort is a tool and a strategy.

At break times, I'm a bit of a mean cow: the reading lounge areas are for [book] reading - the laptoppers are welcome to settle at the tables/desks, but I move them on from the reading lounges, so the screens and moving images and (often) discussions are not a distraction.  (It's also ergonomically a bit smarter for the laptoppers, too).



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