The Digital Age of Reading – by Geriann Brandt Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, College of Arts and Sciences

How do educators impress upon their students the importance of reading? This appears to be such a rudimentary question, but it can be more of an arduous task than most may believe.  I’ve come to the realization that it’s not the students who should change their understanding regarding the importance of reading; it’s me.  Well, I should say the importance of ‘how’ the students read, not what they are reading. The student of the 21st century is not like my cohort age group when it comes to reading. These students are embedded in the Digital Age.

A recent December article featured in CNN News purported that most individuals in the U.S. do not turn off their hand held devices at night, and it is the first thing they look at in the morning. The same could be said for the college student. So why would I possibly entertain the idea that college students would place their devises on ‘sleep’ mode and pick up a book-a real book during their free time? It has come to my attention that I may be fighting a losing battle in regards to the promotion of a hand-held book. I honestly believe that only a true bibliophile can understand the cosmic joy of holding the tome, the smell of magic the pages retain, and eventually allowing yourself to (maybe) pass it onto another true reader. As I immerse myself more affectingly in my personal goals of academics, and of course, encouraging students to explore the pure joy of immersing themselves into a work of any genre of literature, I feel like I’m fighting against one word..the word is Digital!

Apparently, a new study generated by PlayCollective and argue that children from the age of two to thirteen are reading more eBooks. Along with the 64 % surge in reading from the company’s 2012 survey, children who are engrossed in their eBook can easily place a finger on a word with which they are not familiar and a definition appears. Poor Webster. I’m assuming that I will be seeing many an edition placed haphazardly on tables at community garage sales.

Just this past week, the brilliant students at MIT felt so strongly about the power of words, they created a ‘wearable book.’  A book that allows the reader experience a sensory of the word… well, some of the words. As the reader continues through the journey of events found in the book, they will be able to feel what the characters are feeling. This is accomplished through actuators and sensors that connect to the wearable vest. Whatever the protagonist or antagonist experience, the reader will also experience the same physiological sensation. After reading the article I realized I felt the exact same sensations when reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick for the first time, but without wearing a sensor vest.