I love to read books. My love of books started when I was in elementary school and I am glad it has been stuck with me as I have become a parent and progress through my 30s. I started with fiction. I read classics such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and hundreds of pages of lesser known works. The pages of books took me to far away places and I experienced adventures that were not possible in my real life. Good books were of great value and I savored reading them on the first reading because it only happened once. Reading books a second time is okay...but you already know what happens. I love that first read of a good book! As I go back to my childhood and think of these first reads, my imagination is rejuvenated.
Imagine with me for a minute. What if a book could talk? What if I could read a book and it could speak to me? Certainly Gandalf or some other magician could make that happen. What if I could ask the book questions? What if I could ask "why" when I did not understand a plot twist? What if I could pose questions and even predict what will happen next in the book? What if I could pull out characters and create side stories of events that happened in the book but were not explored? For example, what happens to Frodo after he gets on the Elven ship to leave the Shire? How many people have imagined various endings to that story? What if my book could talk to me and tell me what others that have read the book before me think? What if I could share my thoughts with the book? What if I could tell what I liked and did not like in the book? What if...what if...what if...?
What if the first read of a great book happened with a "talking" book? Wouldn't that be a rich and savory experience? I can only imagine...or can I?
The 21st century has allowed us to embark on a wonderful journey. We have so much information and so many tools available to us. And in many ways, the interactive nature of Web 2.0 allows us to do exactly what a talking book would permit us to do. It allows us to define unknown words. It helps us pronounce things. It gives us explanations of characters and events. It allows us to comment on, well, anything from a picture or movie to a news story. And more than all that, it allows me to express myself to others that interact with the same story. Whether it is a story, event, news article, editorial, obituary, image, movie, or audio file, I can interact in rich, engaging ways that a classic book can never give me. For example, will you comment on this blog? Will you share you thoughts and reflections transparently with others? If you choose to do so, does it make the ideas become a conversation starter as opposed to the conversation itself? Will you engage? As adults, we are often hesitant.
Now, for some, I have just committed a terrible travesty in my comments on a book. Please, forgive me. But a book is intensely personal. The 21st century is intensely engaging. I love both. But...21st century literacy is different.
In order to effectively educate ourselves and our students in a changing world, we must be literate...in a new way that is sometimes uncomfortable.