Admittedly, anytime you question the importance of reading, you are taking your life in your own hands. So let me preface this by saying that I am NOT questioning the importance of reading... I am broadening my definition of reading. It is not the act of reading that is so powerful, but the ability to understand and interpret what we have read. So why is it any less important to understand the messages we receive through other media? Why is information in a book inherently better than information on a website, video, podcast, or anywhere else? The answer is, it's not.
I know... the act of editing... the sheer cliff one must navigate to get published helps to weed out a lot of the garbage that gets published elsewhere, but now we are making a judgement about what all of our students read... or consume. We might want them to read books that we deem valuable, but we need to prepare them to consume information from many sources.
On an average day, I read receive information from books, websites, tv, streaming video, audio, Twitter and other social networks, advertisements, magazines, photos, and other sources. The ability to sift through that information to understand what is most accurate, least biased, most up to date, and most relevant is perhaps the most important skill that I utilize every day. So why don't we do a better job of building this skill in our students?
Fear... We are afraid our students will stop reading. We worry that books will lose their value if we appear to be giving kids a choice of how they get their data.
I'm more afraid of our students not understanding the information swirling around them all day long.