My uncle, who is now a retired elementary school teacher, likes to tell the story of how his grandparents would whip him with a switch if they caught him with a book. He spent summers from age 6-10 on his grandparents farm in Ohio. They thought time reading books was idle, fantasy time that should have been spent working on the farm. And if you’re familiar with farm life, there’s always work to be done. Therefore, reading books was forbidden. My uncle used to literally go out on a limb to read a book. He kept a stash of books in a old tree in the fields and risked corporeal punishment to read them.
I share this story to highlight how thoughts on education change through the generations. My uncle’s grandparents thought it best to educate my uncle with hard, physical work with a hands-on and practical focus. Their highest educational goal was teaching my uncle The Protestant Work Ethic. My uncle thought books to be the key to learning.
Today’s generation of parents and children often see digital devices as a valuable learning tool. Companies like Leapfrog sell a plethora of digital learning aides. These electronic tools can certainly assist a child in learning. However, parents are probably wise to have more than one tool in their child’s educational toolkit. Not all kids prefer ebooks over physical books (article on digital reading). Just like my uncle was wise to learn both from books and from his practical farm experiences, today’s children are best served learning from a variety of sources and medium. The most important aspect of education is to always be learning — no matter if it’s from a book or an iPad.