By: Ali Seidabadi, editor for Tiny Owl”s Persian series
Persian fallow deer is a rare, endangered animal in Iran, but also the name of an Iranian award for children’s books, the first ceremony of which was held last week.
This award is characterized by the participation of the whole family in the act of reading. Parents and children read and judge books together.
I was asked to give a speech of about 2-3 minutes in the award-giving ceremony. Talking to an audience comprising both children and parents is, I think, challenging. To overcome this challenge, I took my 9-year-old son Kian with me and he made a few remarks in the middle of my speech, even contradicting me once. For example, I mentioned tablets versus printed books and he said, “I use a tablet and read printed books, too.”
In my speech, I said that in the present day and age, we needed solid reasons to recommend reading. A while ago, a friend asked me, “Why should my child read in the first place? If it is to gain knowledge, there are more efficient, more appealing ways. If it is for entertainment, again there are better and more enjoyable means.” What he had in mind ranged from educational documentaries to animations, to applications, to video games.
I don’t think that any of these can replace books. Books are the only media in which the child reader gets to experience full interaction. Even in the so-called interactive applications, interaction is pre-planned and limited to the script. Only books offer effective and limitless interaction to the user. Book reading for children does not isolate the child from the rest of the family. It’s a cooperative, emotional activity and can be an excuse for the whole family to gather and spend time together in an era where such opportunities are hard to come by.
Readers of books are not subjugated, passive, and compliant; rather, they’re free and liberated. Reading is freedom. I am a user ,and maybe even an ‘overuser.’ of new media. I believe that new media have a myriad of benefits. However, I maintain that nothing, and let me emphasize, nothing can replace books for children. If books disappear from children’s world, nothing will fill their empty place. Their empty place will never be filled.