Our brain is a wonderful thing. It is adaptable in so many ways, take for instance the difference between reading a “real” book, magazine or newspaper versus a “fake” book. “Fake” books are considered any online material. The brain actually interprets print versus online reading differently. Online reading isn’t absorbed as easily. The brain has a tendency to skim over words focusing on just the important parts of the text. While reading a “real” book, our brains absorb the information, whether fact or fiction, quite easily. This absorption is tested by being able to recall or regurgitate what was just read. As for that skimming skill, when reading a print book our brains have the capacity to weave the tapestry of text into a visual movie inside our heads.
It is known that not everyone has the capacity to visualize what they read; however, I’m going to create a small text tapestry for you to ponder…
As the winter wind blew snowflakes dancing down the street, a little boy wanders clutching a small device to his chest. It’s imperative that he make it to his grandmother’s house. In fact, he can see the warm inviting light beckoning to him only a few houses away. She knows he’s coming. She knows his panic over this small device. And she has the answer. Plus, a surprise.
In his hurry through the snow clogged sidewalk, people bustling around him, he slips. The small device slides across the sidewalk as though it has magically sprouted a miniature snowboard on its underside. The boy watches in mortification, sucking in a cold bitter breath, as the small device, ramps the curb in Olympic fashion, into the street. He gets to his feet and runs, his feet like lead. Before he makes it to the street, a strong hand grabs his arm, almost lifting him off his feet. A car rushes by smashing the small device with an audible crunch.
The boy pulls free of the strong hand, looking both ways, steps out into the street to cradle the small device, now broken, clearly beyond repair. He rushes onward oblivious to shouts and honks towards his grandmother’s house. No longer just inviting but needed so desperately in this emergency.
Sitting at his grandmother’s table, crying over the device, he explains, “Gram. It’s not fair! Now, I’ll never know the ending!”
His grandmother smiles and says soothing, “I know you loved your e-reader. It took you places your parents and I can never afford. But I know what you were reading, and I have a solution.”
Wide eyed, he asks in amazement, “Do you have a new e-reader? It’s so expensive.” The boy knows they don’t have much money. His parents matched the money he was able to save doing odd jobs for the neighbors. It took a long time.
His grandmother lovingly laughs, “No, I don’t. However, in my day, we had libraries with free books anyone could borrow. When our library closed. I went and collected some of the classics. So, I have for you this.”
As she handed him that well worn copy, his breath stopped in his chest. His eyes widened, the tears came just glistening in his eyes to match the snow delicately falling outside. He could finish the story but it was more than that. This story he could feel pages, real pages, between his fingers, smell the faint musty odor. The story literally had weight in his hands. He couldn’t fathom how people could let the gift of a library slip between their fingers but he looked at his book and realized his life’s purpose.
This short story illustrates why we need libraries. It’s not a place for useless books. We shouldn’t let it become a computer lab either. As with much of the new technologies used from smartphones to computers to e-readers, there’s a time and place for everything. But magic happens, new worlds emerge, veils are lifted when books are opened and pages are flipped. Even our brains think print is different and treat it better than online texts.