An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Reading in the Digital Age by Saqib Safdar

In Education, technology on May 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

This is not

the age of information.

This is not

the age of information.

Forget the news,

and the radio

and the blurred screen.

This is the time

of loaves

and fishes.

People are hungry,

and one good word is bread

for  a thousand.

David Whyte, “Loaves and Fishes”

Watkins Books LtdA good word is a charitable act.” Hadith of the Prophet Muhammed pbuh.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity of visiting Watkins bookstore. I normally pop in every time I’m in central London. Established over a 100 years ago, it’s one of the world’s oldest bookstores which specialises in esoterica (mind, body & spirit). I have been visiting Watkins bookstore for over a decade now.  Like home-cooked food, it’s just one of those places that can’t quite be franchised. There is always something to pick up, somebody to bump into or an idea to investigate further. Most of the time however, it’s not the books themselves that I go for but to talk to Jeremy Cranswick. Jeremy, if you haven’t met him, is a walking encyclopedia, who has been working at Watkins for over 20 years. He would provide suggestions and insights on genres, books and authors one would just never find on an Amazon review. It’s precisely for this reason that I feel we still need books, libraries and bookstores in the digital age. If you get an opportunity, it’s worth asking him to explain how the book The Christ Within (Anonymous, published by Watkins) came into being!  Here are his views on reading and how information is received and processed in the digital age:

In my experience, children naturally build a relationship with a book or author. The question is, if everything were to predominantly become digital over the next decade or so, to what extent would that bonding still happen? Based on a study of 34,910 eight to sixteen year olds, the National Literacy Trust found “those who read daily only on-screen are nearly twice less likely to be above average readers than those who read daily in print or in print and on-screen (15.5% vs 26%). Those who read only on-screen are also three times less likely to enjoy reading very much (12% vs 51%) and a third less likely to have a favorite book (59% vs 77%).” I find it hard to imagine a child growing up without a favorite book!

Personally, I enjoy reading on my iPad/Kindle with all the features that come with it and I feel it’s great that the same book becomes automatically synchronized on my iPhone as I am reading it. However, there are certain books which, for one reason or another, need to be held in one’s hands; reading them on a digital device, doesn’t quite feel right. Many years ago, I once gave a book to a dervish to read. I found it interesting and told him about it, so he took interest and wanted to read it too. A few weeks later, while at his house, I asked if he had started reading the book. He took the book out, held it on the palm of his hand and said, “There’s no baraka/transmission/spiritual grace flowing from here.” The same person once visited me. When he entered my study, without reading the titles, he very intuitively was able to get a feel of a book’s substance just by looking at it. The books he asked about from my bookshelves were related to his silisla but ones he hadn’t seen  before. Much like home-cooked food, there is a dimension of wholesomeness  which carries through in the material manifestation of certain books. Maybe a dimension of soul. I often feel it when I see the handwriting of a famous author.

(Owing to family and work commitments, I am not able to write/reflect as extensively as I would like to. Nevertheless, I thought I’ll write down what comes to mind and revisit it at a later date through the comments section below or maybe an update to this post.)

Further Reading

The National Literacy Trust

http://www.youtube.com/watkinsbooks

The Plug-in Drug (Television, Computer and Family Life) by Marie Winn

A is for Ox – The Collapse of Literacy and the Rise of Violence in an Electronic Age by Barry Sanders.

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