Watch this video.
The author of this video implies that his daughter has been coded by Steve Jobs and that she has already ditched print media. The child attempts to interact with the magazine in a way that is reminiscent of the iPad and that she gives up because “print doesn’t work.”
The child in this video is about one year old, at least that’s what is assumed by the folks over at NY Daily News where I saw this piece. I agree that the child looks about less than a year old, and that’s really the important piece of this story.
The folks over at Early Stages, a childhood developmental testing center here in DC, have developed a really fantastic handout about the milestones that all children should be reaching by different ages. Around 7 months to 1 year old children are learning how to interact with and manipulate objects properly in their surroundings. That’s what I believe we’re seeing here.
In that developmental phase children are trying to understand how different objects work. We as adults know that iPads and Magazines work differently, and we manipulate them differently with our hands. But we have grown up in a world where those things were also taught to us. Many of us don’t remember how we learned to read a book, because that educational experience happens at about this age of 6 months and on. So, it’s not that the magazine is “broken.” Rather, it is that no one has shown the child how to manipulate the pages of a magazine to see all the pictures inside.
A child at this age doesn’t understand the difference between an square icon on a piece of glass and a square on a piece of paper. They don’t know that they might not act differently, and their very limited experience in life has not given them any reason to suggest that they would. That’s why we see the child attempting to “click” on the boxes on the page, or trying to “pinch” and blow up an image. She just hasn’t developed the subtlety to make that distinction between paper and digital.
I do think this says something, however, about the future of reading. Interactivity is a huge part of contemporary reading. All of the heaviest hitting places on the web are interactive. The enhanced eBook movement is an attempt to incorporate that into the process of reading. It’s so much more than just sitting down with a book, it’s sitting down with a book, a collection of movies, a dictionary/encyclopedia and some critical works just in case you don’t quite follow along. Not to mention that you can fiddle with the look and feel of the reading experience until it fits your own personalized style, provided they’ve given you the option to do that. The printed book just can’t compare to that, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to.
There is no reason why we cannot fully embrace both print literacy and digital literacy with children. The world they are going to grow into is probably going to slowly migrate into a digital playground, but not without a lot of stumbling blocks. Print isn’t going away tomorrow, and magazines aren’t useless. Well, maybe a few of them are useless… But the point is, if you are raising a child in today’s world, it’s a mistake to think that their inability to manipulate a magazine is a sign that they are now wired for iPads. No, it’s a sign that you need to show that child how you open a book, turn a page, and read along the line. Books, magazines and newspapers are still a part of our world, and they probably will be a for a long time. Make sure that child learns how they are different and how they are the same, because that’s what builds up all those skills she’s going to need when she starts school.
And I’ll bet she’ll probably need to read a book or two in school.