Q: What will you talk about at Rice [2009 Friends of Fondren Library Distinguished Guest Lecture]?This is from an interview McMurtry in the Houston Chronicle. I see kids reading. I saw kids reading and thinking citically and passionately about books when I accompanied author Pat Schmatz to a meeting of St. Paul’s Teen’s Know Best YALSA galley group last week. Pat blogged about the experience, so I’ll just say that I’ve visited this group many times over the last two years and it never fails to make me excited to be a part of the world of books.
A: The end of the culture of the book. I’m pessimistic. Mainly it’s the flow of people into my bookshop in Archer City. They’re almost always people over 40.
I don’t see kids, and I don’t see kids reading. I think little kids love to have stories read to them, but when they get to 10 or 11 or 12, they run into this tsunami of technology: iPod, iPhone, Blackberries.
They don’t resist it, and it’s normal that they wouldn’t; it’s their culture. I’m not so sure they ever come back to reading. Some will, but most won’t.
Yes, they’ve all got cell phones and they take the Internet for granted, but I see that pushing them towards books more than away from them. For example, as Pat mentions in her blog, there was a vigorous and thoughtful debate about vampire novels among the twenty- five or so teens in attendance, and Pat and I were both struck by how this debate would never have happened when we were growing up (and I’m only fifteen years older than these teens). These “kids” are extremely sophisticated about the books they read within the context of popular culture and publishing trends. Maybe they’re not curling up with a book and escaping all other distraction as frequently (a sentimental and suspicious activity I think is in some part a wishful adult projection), but there are lots of teens who are reading with their brains on. I don’t think you found this awareness in the previous generation and I think this kind of reading bodes well for the future.
PS: Don't miss Leila Roy's blog on this.