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Is Reading Still Important For Kids?

With the advances in technology, so much of our life and entertainment has moved online. Most of what you once looked to books to solve, Google has the answers to in a click and a quick YouTube search will teach you how to do just about anything. Is reading still as important for kids as it used to be?

Yes. And not only as important; I would argue more so. We may get more and more of our information from screens, but the one thing you don't get from a screen is imagination, creativity, originality, and innovation. A video may give you some ideas, but they are likely slight alternations of the original design and already tried.

What's the difference between reading a book and just watching an educational video?

You watch videos. Watching implies that you are a viewer, a person in the audience. Someone not involved in the creation process. You absorb what has already been created. There is very little creative work expected of the viewer. It is passive in nature. 

teapot standing on a stack of old antique books

Reading, however, is a particular kind of experience. You are basically given instructions by the writer to follow, but the look of most everything and even slight alternations of the author's original descriptions are entirely the responsibility of your imagination. The author may describe the protagonist as having blond hair, but in your mind brown suits her better. And brown is what it's gonna be. Watching, you view. Reading, you do. It is active in nature.

There is no "work" required to watch a video. I hate to refer to reading as "work", but it is in some sense. I have to admit that reading is much harder to do than turning on the TV. And that's precisely my point. Work is purposeful and is meant to accomplish something - to put you farther along than where you started. Reading demands something out of you because you are involved in the story's creation and production. You are not merely a viewer, a spectator, when you are reading.

And why is that important?

Knowledge isn't what it used to be. It's cheap, easy, and accessible on demand from our phones. Sure, head knowledge counts for something, but it's no longer going to propel you up the corporate ladder and give you a high paying job, with few exceptions.

YouTube can teach you many useful skills. You may even be able to profit from them. But my prediction is that for our children, even skills will no longer have the same demand that they do now due to advances in AI and technology. 20 years from now, the way we work will change drastically. Many of the traditional jobs will be replaced by machines. I believe we will see manual labor become nearly worthless in our lifetime. 

So what will be in demand?

Creativity. Problem Solving. Being able to think outside the box. Being able to innovate and create new things or improve old ones. All that TV watching and internet surfing is unlikely to give our kids any of those skills. All those games and tablet apps are unlikely bringing our children any closer to success. Depending on how much time they're being used, it's actually pushing them farther away from it.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of leisure and down time is important to all of us - parents and kids. There's nothing wrong with watching TV, YouTube videos, or mindlessly surfing the internet as long as it's in moderation. But reading must also be included in our time off. Yes, parents, I'm talking to you too. 

Education and knowledge are useful. But only useful to the person who knows how to use it. The reward is small for learning how to do things that have already been done but great for designing and inspiring change. Real change can only be done by using creativity because it relies on possibility - that which has not yet been done. 


What makes reading special?

Reading is of immense value to our children because it gives them the tools to learn how to dream, how to aspire towards goals not yet realized, and how to think originally and intelligently. These are the benchmarks by which they'll be measured in the future. Information can still be useful, but our ability to process, accurately record, and store information is drastically outmatched by a computer. 

Creativity is something that computers don't possess. Teaching our children to read and stressing its value is a critical part of our kids' success. Reading is vitally important to a child's education now, more than ever. 

 

 

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