I have a bad habit of reading the New York Times on my iPhone. This is bad because my kids think I'm always on Facebook. (Not true!) It's been more than a decade since I read the newspaper on paper more often than on screen. I started reading it at work many years ago, and got used to how it's organized digitally: with the most emailed (i.e. popular) articles on the sidebar, and with articles united by topic conveniently linked. It also made it very easy for me to keep reading my paper when I lived abroad. (No, I never became a Guardian convert. I also streamed WNYC on my laptop -- I'm a very loyal media consumer).
My mother has imparted to me that it's important to get the physical paper at home, even if you don't read it every day. For the children. This is a hold-over opinion from the heyday of the newspaper: once upon a time, the quantity and quality of the newspapers you had delivered to your front door was a direct reflection of your intelligence and moral fiber. (My parents received the New York Times and Newsday daily. Plus weeklies like The Jewish Week, The Jewish World, and the local Three Village Herald. And Newsweek and Moment, and various other magazines. We could have opened a periodicals reading room.)
The idea that you can demonstrate to your kids your intellectual worth through the presence of the newspaper is sibling to the idea that it's important to raise the kids in a house full of books (and, most importantly, a full set of encyclopedias). This, too, is on its way to being an anachronism -- we all know what happened to the Britannica. And as Josh and I (and my parents!) are all happy with our e-readers, what evidence is there for my kids that I'm actually reading something other than the Facebook newsfeed? Especially when I'm using the Kindle app on my iPhone?
There's no evidence at all. But I just want to say: the times they are a-changin', and it ain't just me. Example:
Bella just finished a wonderful, in-depth research project about the howler monkey as part of her fourth grade class's rainforest unit. She wrote an essay, created a Powerpoint, and made notecards for her presentation, which she will give tomorrow in front of parents, teachers, classmates, and children from other classes. At home she's been practicing making eye contact, speaking loudly, and answering questions from the audience (me). I wondered how she knew that the howler monkey is the second loudest animal, after the blue whale. Where did she do her research? I asked. Two words: the internet. I don't think she knows what an encyclopedia is. Seriously.
All this is just to say that I will inevitably go on reading the news on my phone. My kids will have to believe in my intelligence for some reason other than seeing my face hidden behind the actual paper. We do still get the paper on weekends, but more often than not, it goes straight to the recycling bin.
One day when my kids are older, they might read this post and wonder what in the world I was talking about. People used to get the newspaper delivered to their home every day? Why, oh why?