21 December 2015

the beginning of the end..

m’s best friend has been sabotaged.. in a bid to get him to stop sucking his thumb, H applied some anti-sucking lotion on it while he was asleep at night. m woke up a couple of times asking for water, and finally told me that there was a ‘smell’ somewhere.. this morning he had the most piteous look on his face, his mouth all down turned and quivering, unable to figure out what had suddenly happened to his thumb and why there was an awful taste in his mouth.

I had to physically stop myself from hugging him, wiping off the medicine and telling him everything was fine. Sigh. I may be a bigger wuss than him! What will I do later, when bad things out of my control upset him??!


01 December 2015

topography: paper versus ebooks

over the weekend, we took the kids to a bookstore after eons (i usually buy books for the twins on my own). i let them sit on the floor and go through all the children's books, while i selected a couple of story collections for them. in the midst of this, H wondered whether it was necessary to buy yet more books for them (they do have a fair few books, i know :P, and books are far from cheap here) when i could simply download stories for them on my kindle or phone (H has a few such stories on his phone, and the twins love them). my immediate response was that paper books in NO WAY can be replaced by technology, particularly for young kids.

i love books. i love to read. and, since moving to india, i love my kindle, because it is a means for me to read; without public libraries and second hand book stores that sell literary fiction (david mitchell, kate atkinson, sara gruen, linda grant etc), ebooks on the kindle were the only alternative i had. plus, living in a tiny apartment, there is no possibility of recreating a library for myself here.

intuitively, i know there is a difference between how i read a paper book, and an ebook. without holding the book in my hands, feeling its weight, turning the pages one by one or a few at a time to look for something in particular, my reading experience is different. i do not recall specific incidents/quotes from ebooks as well as i could from real books.

after this brief conversation with H, i did some googling, and i found this wonderful article that totally sums up my experience, with lots of further research and information. read it!

my favourite parts:
people report that when trying to locate a particular piece of written information they often remember where in the text it appeared. We might recall that we passed the red farmhouse near the start of the trail before we started climbing uphill through the forest; in a similar way, we remember that we read about Mr. Darcy rebuffing Elizabeth Bennett on the bottom of the left-hand page in one of the earlier chapters. 

In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there's a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text. 

In contrast, most screens, e-readers, smartphones and tablets interfere with intuitive navigation of a text and inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds. A reader of digital text might scroll through a seamless stream of words, tap forward one page at a time or use the search function to immediately locate a particular phrase—but it is difficult to see any one passage in the context of the entire text... the screen only displays a single virtual page: it is there and then it is gone. Instead of hiking the trail yourself, the trees, rocks and moss move past you in flashes with no trace of what came before and no way to see what lies ahead. 

"The implicit feel of where you are in a physical book turns out to be more important than we realized," says Abigail Sellen of Microsoft Research Cambridge in England and co-author of The Myth of the Paperless Office... At least a few studies suggest that by limiting the way people navigate texts, screens impair comprehension.
i will ply the twins with as many books as i can :) there are many advantages of e-reading and there are lovely apps for kids, which i am happy for them to make use of, but not as a replacement for paper books. the joy of watching them turn the pages of their books, move back and forth to ask questions and confirm something, is something that technology does not (yet?) inspire.  

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