Reading in the internet age: a long form


Kat Sarafianos

The internet hasn’t killed reading

[dropcap style=”flat” size=”4″]T[/dropcap]here are thousands of niche groups and communities on the internet that all individually bond over a small common interest that the general public may overlook or, in that community’s’ eyes, even underappreciate. These deep passions lay in communities like Booktube.
Booktube refers to Youtubers (and their loyal viewers) who dedicate their content to reviewing books, talking about beloved characters and fandoms and encouraging their viewers to read. Sophomore Shawn Lucas considers himself an avid reader and loyal Booktube fan.
“My favorite Booktubers are Katytastic and Paulmina’s Books,“ Lucas said. “I even watch a monthly podcast with some of my favorite [Booktubers].”
So what is the appeal of watching a video about reading? As contradictory as it might seem, especially in the media age, videos like the ones Lucas watch give him new book recommendations and encourage him to read despite naysayers.
“I believe [the developments in mobile technology] have resulted in a large shift of focus from books to film. It’s kind of gone from paper to paperless. With me and for people around me, it kind of seems like now there is a stigma against reading,” Lucas said. “[People may] perceive it as something for older generations and not something that young people should be able to get into. It doesn’t make sense to me. Like, why is that stigma here? Because even though technology can have a negative impact on how much people can read, [that technological improvement] also offers so much more because there’s more access.”
[quote]A survey completed in October of last year by Pew Research found that 27 percent of American adults had not read a single book in the past year, and only 63 percent had read an actual paperback novel.[/quote] While an obvious reason for this decrease in reading might be technology, there is more to it than that. RBHS media specialist Beth Shapiro agrees with Lucas and believes if anything, people can read more with the developments in mobile technology as more ways to read and more things to read are available because of the internet age.
“That other [social] media definitely shifts kids’ attention away from reading, but not entirely,” Shapiro said. “I would agree [that with more developed technology, kids read less in the traditional sense], but reading and resources for reading are still out there. It’s not like society is saying goodbye to reading forever. We have many more things to choose from for entertainment, but also, many more ways to get information.”
Booktube is proof of Shapiro’s and Lucas’s claim that technological development and reading are not inversely related.
Booktuber Emma Giordano, and her channel Emmabooks, think the media and the internet serve as a great crossroads between technology and literature, showcasing what great both can do combined.
“I use technology to maximize my reading, like listening to audiobooks when I’m driving or getting ready. I can’t read a book while doing those things, and I wouldn’t be able to experience new stories in that format without my phone,” Giordano said. “Others replace reading with games and the internet. I think technology can be so positive to the literary world, but only if it is being used for good by the beholder.”
Shapiro agrees with Giordana, to an extent. The media specialist believes that any kind of reading, not just a novel in the traditional sense, whether it be a Buzzfeed article or a news summary on Twitter, constitutes real reading.
“I do believe reading in the traditional sense, finishing a novel front to back is decreasing [among teens], but not that reading itself is decreasing” Shapiro said. “We read every day and developments in technology are just changing how we do it.”[vc_separator border_width=”5″]

We belong in your world: the importance of diversity in books

[dropcap style=”flat” size=”4″]W[/dropcap]hen we read a book, we transcend our physical surroundings and immerse ourselves in a new world. Whether that world be Hogwarts, Narnia or a college town in Louisiana, those worlds and their characters create, for a small time, a new place to explore, to learn about and to live in.
However, if you grow up your entire life never seeing someone who looks like you in the media you consume, the books you read and the worlds you find yourself in can feel unwelcome.
As kids, we internalize the stories we hear and use them to identify in ourselves what we think is important. Whether that means really connecting with a character and relating to them on an emotional level or finding similarities in our world and the books, we use the stories we read to find out who we are and what we value.
But that can be harder for kids who don’t see reflections of themselves in those worlds. Books empower and normalize the world around us, but if the only thing a young reader sees are people who don’t look like them, they can feel like imposters, like they don’t belong in this world or any, and that the only stories worth telling are those without them in it.
In her TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about the negative effects and impact the lack of diversity can have in a young reader’s life.
 As a child Adichie would read British and American books that featured solely white children who played in the snow and ate apples and when she wrote her own stories, they mimicked what she had read and featured those same features even though she had never encountered any of that in her own life. When she found African stories and books, she realized that people like her could be in stories.
“Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify,” Adichie said.“Show people as one thing and one thing only over and over again and that is what they become.”
If we hear or read stories about a part of the world we tend to perceive that part of the world as the stories describe those places. A single story robs people of their dignity and emphasizes how different people are.
It’s not that all stories need a person of every race to be complete, but we owe it to young reader of all ages, gender and race to have some books available for them to read that show a reflection of their unique and different identities. Everyone’s world looks a little different, so to have a single story that all books take after and model is not only unfair, but is an incomplete description.