Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sometimes it is about the book

I often mark articles to re-visit at a later date, or because I felt too pressed for time to read them thoroughly at that moment. Sometimes when I review things I have marked I ask myself "what were you thinking?" I'll seriously have no clue why I marked it.

This New York Times piece from David Brooks, July 2010, really made me stop and reflect.

The Medium Is the Medium -

Using data gathered in a recent study, researchers gave 852 disadvantaged students 12 books each to take home over the summer, and they did this for three successive years. The results?

They found that the students who brought the books home had significantly higher reading scores than other students. These students were less affected by the “summer slide” — the decline that especially afflicts lower-income students during the vacation months. In fact, just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school.

What about the Internet and the impact of alternate formats for reading? Doesn't access provide the same boost to learning as ownership of a physical book? It turns out sometimes it really is about the book. The literary world is still solidly print based with regard to our cultural perceptions. A book is still a book in our society, and it has very strong associations and implications.

The big result from the book study was the change in student achievement. Researchers concluded:

It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group.

A few years ago we invested heavily in graphic novels. Our circulation statistics went through the roof. Students I had never seen before were coming in to check out graphic novels. It wasn't a temporary blip. Circulation continued to rise in fiction and nonfiction. Once they got used to checking out graphic novels they began to see themselves as people who checked books out from the library.

I want all our students to see themselves as people who read and are comfortable with books, and the associations that come with books. As hard as I work to innovate and bring new formats of content to our school, I can't lose sight of the importance of the physical book in our society.

YouTube Credit:
It's a book
Lane Smith

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