Have youth given up “serious reading”?

I was extra sensitive to any sort of assumptions made about youth when reading through some articles this week. This article¬†No future for serious reading¬†published in the Sun discusses Stan Persky’s book Reading the 21st Century and the author’s concern that young people are no longer reading anything of quality. I am so tired of this irrational fear of society’s culture going down the drain because the youth today are uneducated in what are always subjectively labelled “culturally significant” works. Is society doomed because kids are not fluent in Latin and are playing angry birds instead? I think Persky’s statement that information technology devices are not being used to access information and knowledge is completely unfounded. Kids are accessing information and creating content all the time from their phones, laptops, Twitter accounts etc. Persky does acknowledge that the act of writing is flourishing but doesn’t attach any significance to youth being content creators. Interacting with knowledge, rather than passively accepting information, is so important for engaging youth with society.

On the other end of the spectrum, here’s a great article on Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia project that gives young people the tools and space they need to be content creators. I love the description of the One Book One Chicago project as a way to engage with traditional reading material in ways that are new and innovative. Youth redesigned the book jacket, reimagined scenes through photographs, and performed spoken word pieces inspired by the book. I love this video of one young man describing his experiences at the library through a spoken word piece. It most certainly makes me think we are far from doomed…

Malcolm London YOUmedia


2 thoughts on “Have youth given up “serious reading”?

  1. Another problem I have with these sorts of doom and gloom, the kids aren’t alright articles is the idea that the past was actually some utopia of reading and learning. I grew up at a time when video games were just starting to take hold and I got my first email address in grade 12. I can safely say that some of my friends were voracious readers like myself and others just were not. Those who didn’t read outside of class assignments found all sorts of things to keep them occupied without smart phones and social media.

    • Agreed, Adam. There is a sense that the past was some kind of fantasy land where kids read mountains of high quality literature, brushed their teeth 5 times per day, and had straight A report cards, like Lake Woebegone. Then came the Internet and social media and the whole thing went straight to hell. Many of these arguments have a flavor of technological determinism, meaning that the technology is either to blame for all the problems, or (taking the opposite perspective) technology is the reason that kids have so much freedom, empowerment, and increased standing in society. Propositions based on a technologically determinist stance tend to ignore the complex dynamic of social and political forces at play in the way technologies are adopted and adapted in everyday life.

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