This piece was published in the NT Suns Newspaper on April 10 2019 under the title Books are still valuable.
In these modern times, it is easy to replace traditional reading approaches with device supported alternatives. The proof of this change is confirmed by the number of bookshops that have been relocated away from the Northern Territory, changed business focus or closed. Among these are the ABC Bookshop, Dymocks and Angus & Robertson. While newsagents carry text material, dedicated bookshops are in decline.
Tablets and electronic books are becoming ever more popular, replacing what was a preference for books and traditional texts. Newspapers and some magazines have skyrocketing numbers of online readers, but subscriptions to hardcopy and paper formats are declining.
Electronic reading is an individualised alternative. The interaction is between the reader and the device. Text sharing and discussion does not take place because this reading method is not a group activity. Reading from devices does little to promote text sharing and companionship between readers.
Jackie Sinnerton made this point in a recent column about what should be an important sharing between parents and children. She suggests that “… parents should stick with old fashioned storybooks when reading to their children and ditch the electronic devices … reading from a device or e-book fails to engage children in the same way as a storybook. Parents and children verbalise and interact more when story and pictures are in print.” (Reading more special when it’s in print, NT News, 27 March 2019)
Traditional reading offers interactive opportunities for parents and children. Quoting from a prominent paediatrician Dr Tiffany Munzer, Sinnerton explains that the tradition of parents and children reading together offers “ … interactions, including warmth, closeness and enthusiasm during reading (which) create positive associations with reading (that) will likely stick with children as they get older.” (Op cit).
Although not stated, this benefit will in all likelihood be carried forward and become a habit that today’s children will practice as tomorrow’s parents.
Traditional reading promotes family togetherness. It also supports children in their acquiring of reading, conversational and comprehension skills.
The NT News and other papers belonging to the Murdock stable recognise the importance of shared readings in the family context. From time to time, sets of books which can be purchased by families reading newspapers, are offered for sale at most reasonable prices. This is a positive and practical initiative.
Access to traditional books and sharing quality time focussing on written text, adds value to family life. Children from homes where shared reading and discussion is a family habit, stand to gain a head start in reading, discussion and social sharing which are elements of formal schooling.