When Readers are Illiterate


Random Kitten

With the Kindle I used to have, if you put it on a certain setting the Kindle would read the book to you in a computer voice. It was kind of annoying so I didn’t use it much. But it gave me the idea: illiterate readers are our future.

With Kindles, illiterate kids can ‘read’ books. Schools, who all too often produce illiterate kids by demanding that any method other than intensive phonics be used to teach reading, love electronic devices. I remember one school district that was going to provide all kids with either a laptop or a smartphone to use at school. Whether the parents liked it or not.

Educational systems will almost certainly go for giving reading disabled kids Kindles that read to them. And then— why should those kids learn to read? It’s like teaching handwriting so kids can write by hand instead of using the devices that the financially better off always have available. (Poor people don’t need to write, evidently.)

And so, the number of illiterate readers will go up. I wonder how long it will be before they do surveys on what kind of books the illiterate reader prefers. And writers will study articles on how to appeal to the illiterate reader. Some writers will make a specialty in writing books that appeal to the illiterates. Why not? Writers already write books that appeal to the uneducated that don’t mention, for example, obscure historical figures like Julius Caesar or Martin Luther.  That’s probably what the YA category is for.

And the day will come in some future era where the skill of actual reading is a rare skill like fixing the plumbing. And no one can take walks through cemeteries to read the headstones.

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5 thoughts on “When Readers are Illiterate

  1. I have a theory of my own. No one else took interest when I posted it on Quora. In our post literate culture poems are about to make a comeback.
    I am sure you’ll like this idea. The novel will be replaced by the epic. Remember Gilgamesh and Beowulf? 🙂

  2. I think it’s unlikely people will get truly illiterate, at least not in the near future. Texting is quite popular, and there is so much social media that requires reading that kids might start learning to read at a younger age so they can communicate. My brother got online when he was unable to spell, and he learned to spell much faster than us older kids, all because he needed to spell so the other people online could understand him. Audiobooks tend to be popular, not because people are unable to read, but because busy people don’t have time to sit down and read, but they can clean and listen to audiobooks or listen to them while they’re on road trips.

  3. Another option could be that, while people stay literate, standardized spelling goes out the window. I remember reading that hundreds of years ago, spelling had less rules and was mostly a free-for-all. With kids reading most of their text that’s written in slang, this could eventually evolve into something that resembles its own language. (Spell check and autocorrect may slow that, making it a little less likely for now.)
    I think the biggest danger to books isn’t illiteracy, but our modern world giving kids other things to do that stop them from taking the time to read.

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