Around a year ago I had an epiphany. Yes I know that's a strong word to use but really an epiphany is what I would call it. For years I had slowly been switching my physical book collection over onto my trusted e-reader thinking that it was the best move ever.
Let's be honest e-readers have many benefits that cannot be ignored. Firstly, it means that you can take your entire book collection anywhere you go. No more are you sitting on that sun lounger on holiday wishing you'd brought that latest bestseller you left lying on your nightstand because suddenly you don't fancy the thriller you brought with you. You have all the choice at your fingertips. Also, you can read at night in bed and not disturb the person next to you. No more hiding the light under the covers so as not to wake everyone else up, or trying to move your book light around so you can read every word on the pages of that huge hardback you are reading. And then talking about hardbacks the wrist strain holding those big books up, e-readers are so light in the hand and you don't find yourself with shoulder cramp from having to lug your reader around whereas having that book in your bag as you commute can be a real weight to carry around all day.
Also, if like me you love to buy all the latest releases then you will often find that e-books come down in price very quickly whereas those hardbacks or paperbacks will tend to take months to reach a more affordable or equivalent level to their electronic versions.
All this combined makes e-readers a very attractive proposition for the modern world. I was a convert, I was there on the bandwagon telling everyone how great they were but then something happened that made me stop and rethink.
My website is called Mummy Loves Books because I am just that. A busy mum of four whose love of reading has inspired me to find a way to express my love of the books I read with the world. I want to ensure that books can be shared and encourage people to pick up books they perhaps hadn't considered. And with that very objective it struck me that by solely using my e-reader I was actually detrimentally stopping that very thing from happening in my own home. Why, I hear you ask.
The world today has gone electronics mad. Everywhere you look people are on their smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart watches and we are being told by parenting experts that our constantly looking at these devices is damaging our abilities to communicate with our children and to actively encourage them to put them down and do other things themselves. So imagine the scenario, my 6 year old observes me as I'm sitting on the sofa with my e-reader in my hand as I read my latest book. But she's 6 years old, is that what she sees? Or does she simply see mummy with her head buried in a device. She doesn't see device and equate that with a book. She sees simply another electronic thing that mummy spends a LOT of time using.
Once this got into my brain I found it impossible to get it out. Are we adversely impacting our children's desire to pick up books simply by not picking up actual 'books'? The paper and ink versions that have become less popular over the past decade?
So I tried a little experiment. I went back to physical books and over the past year a funny thing has happened. Because my children see the books I'm reading in my hands, they can look at the covers, they can pick them up, they can read the jackets and see them lying on the coffee table - suddenly what mum is reading is 'real'. It's not just a black device sitting there, it's a proper pages living thing that I'm doing. Whereas before regardless of whether I was reading 1 book a month or 20 the outside view to them always looked the same. Now there are different colours and sizes and fonts and authors names to be seen and they can literally see me going through different books each month and they can chart just how much I read by seeing the physical look of the books changing.
Also, because I started reading physical books again, and because I cannot afford to buy all the time I went back to using my local library every single week. Now I am in and out all the time. And when I go when I can I'll take my kids with me. Or if they cannot come I'll order them a book I think they will enjoy and I'll bring it home for them so they can have access to more books too. Libraries are in serious threat of closure if people do not begin making use of their services and whilst their moves towards offering digital books are to be applauded it removes the joy of browsing around the shelves when all you have to do is log onto a computer browser alone to pick your next read. Gone is the community spirit gained by meeting people locally who share your love. Gone is the chance to chat with the library assistants who can tell you what books have been flying off the shelves or ask you for your thoughts on what you are returning. If we don't teach our children to use libraries then they will not be there in 10 or 20 years time and that would be hugely detrimental for the generations still to come. For those people who will not be able to afford to buy books for their little ones in the future and who will no longer be able to go and borrow books at no cost to them. I am now 100% committed to ensuring my children do use the library and know that the books there allow them to experiment with the authors they try, to not be afraid to borrow things they might think are too difficult because you never know the might manage. To learn about the different genres of books and to sometimes not use google for homework but check the information in an 'actual book'.
And whilst I do use the library for the majority of my books I read I am still drawn constantly to bookshops now when I go shopping, so I can keep up with the latest releases and what I can order from my library to put on my To Be Read shelf. And now when I drop into my local bookstore the kids come too. Before when I was e-book buying I'd simply log onto Amazon and browse their e-books and add them to my wish-list, on one needed to know if Fifty Shades of Grey made it onto there it was for my eyes only and if I chose to read it then I could pretend I was reading something much more intellectual. Now when I browse the bookstore I spend time with them looking for books that they will also enjoy reading.
Over the past year a funny thing has happened in my home, my children from age 6 to 14 can now identify books and authors I've read. They know in a bookshop if I've read something and will often say "Didn't you read that one mum?" or "Look, you like that author" and my older children of 11 and 14 will sometimes pick my YA books up and say that they fancy giving them a go. My daughter is now flicking through my TBR shelf looking for things she will like. And my 6 year old daughter brough a Neil Gaiman book home for her reading book last week. The joy on her face when I walked to my bookshelf and showed her I had one of his books too was worth every part of switching back to paper. That and sitting in the garden last Saturday feet up reading my book whilst she sat on a chair opposite me reading her own book and telling me why she likes hardback books more than paperbacks was truly a joy.
Through this switch back to the physical from the electronic I 100% believe that it has helped my family to understand the extent to which I read and how important it is for us all. They all now pick up books more often themselves and I firmly believe that their future engagement with the literary world will be enhanced through making this small but significant switch in the format in which I choose to read. I haven't thrown my e-reader away, I still absolutely have times where I still use it. During those sleepless nights when I don't want to disturb my other half in bed I absolutely reach for my trusted e-reader and it has saved my life when packing for holidays as there is only so much you can fit in a car when you have suitcases for 4 children and yourself and husband plus a dog to squeeze in.
In a world where reading is absolutely fundamental to the development of our children isn't it maybe time to consider how we read? It has been proven that children who grow up with access to books and live in an environment where books are present 'will earn more as adults'. Don't all our children deserve the best chance in life? Could this simple switch really be a key to helping literacy levels? I believe it could play a vital role.