Recently, I became a Granny for the first time and apart from thinking he’s the cutest grandson in the world (doesn’t every granny think that?), I’ve also wondered about how the beginning of any life affects the many people around that life and how that life is recorded and shared. The obvious answers include parents who get insufficient sleep, grandparents and uncles and aunts and friends and a host of others who are thrilled, and a baby who is “recorded” from birth mostly in photos and videos. But where do reading and writing come in?
David Strathairn, the actor, once said that “television and film are our libraries now, our history books,” but more of us than ever are writing—memoirs, fiction, poetry, and “morphed” forms of digital texts and blended media. Our children and grandchildren will be recorded—eventually—in those forms, but the beginning is photo, photo, photo. I admit my bias in this matter: I’ve worked in libraries all my life, watching us de-accession physical books, while acquiring more and more electronic books, journals, and other formats.
What writing will this child see? What will he read? More to the point, will he read? Knowing his parents, I can safely say “of course,” but I suspect what he’ll read will be very different from the reading I enjoyed growing up—more fact, less fiction, and certainly less poetry (I read a lot of that). The thought of this saddens me. I believe in fiction and poetry, and I worry that there’s too little in our children’s lives. My grandson has been born into a family that is highly skilled in the computer industry, which makes me confident that, if he is as skilled in math and science as his parents, he’ll have as secure a future as it’s possible for one human being to have. I just want him to have other forms of imaginative life. As long as I’m on the planet, I’m going to try to make sure he has stories and fiction and poetry to read.