Reading and writing are being re-defined today.
Our students, indeed all readers, are reading for different purposes than we were. They have a different level of access than we did. When I was a kid and a topic came up at the dining room table, I was always encouraged to look it up. We were lucky. We had a set of encyclopedias. So, I walked away from the table and into the back room to find volume 17. When my own children ask a question, one of us can reach into a pocket and find the answer on our phone! It does not matter if we are passengers in a car, sitting in a restaurant or at home. Kids are gathering information on topics of interest to them -- as soon as they think of it.They are are looking for instructions for projects that are authentic and engaging - just because they want to do it. They are not limited to the books on the shelf nor newspaper subscriptions. They can read a book, an article, an opinion, or watch a video, all without getting out of a chair. There are some that believe that the type of reading our kids do online is less than rigorous. There are those who think that the great thinkers were only those who wrote before us.
We write regularly and often in response to what we read. Writing is often done on keyboards, and kids regularly write with their thumbs! Today's writers, whether they are best sellers or student writers, must be prepared to be challenged by other writers. For example, wikis, and yes, Wikipedia, allow the everyday person to add to the wisdom of the ages. Wikipedia also provides everyday people with the opportunity to question and correct what it is written. Readers can even flag incorrect or misleading information. Most blogs encourage others to respond to another person's writing. (In fact, I hope you'll comment on this blog below!) Email addresses give readers the chance to tell an author whether or not we liked the book's ending. And, if an article in the newspaper raises your blood pressure, the comment section at the end of the online newspaper article lets you speak your piece.
So, are children choosing to read Socrates? Probably not. But, did they choose to read Socrates in the past? Are children reading on their own? Those that I know are making that choice. They are reading news articles, current events, movie reviews, book reviews, manuals, and reviews for the latest gadget.
Are children writing? I know one 9th grader who has written 2 novels. Both have been peer-reviewed via a blog. Her peers read on their phones and computers. Prior to the blog, she shared her writing via email and asked for feedback. Two kids I know are practicing their Spanish vocabulary by texting (and correcting each other) in Spanish! Another child and his peers wrote a 12 page play script in the schoolyard. Then this child came home and typed it up - to be performed and recorded with his digital camera.
Today is the day! The possibilities are endless.