Books + Video = Bad News

One’s opinions on books and writing evolves when one becomes an English teacher. At least mine have. For example, when I read this NYT article on hybrid books, I was scandalized. Books are meant to stay in their static, text-based format. Part of the charm of a book is that it is portable, requires no electricity, and only sometimes has pictures. I love the narrative nature of movies as much as the next lit specialist, but if a book demanded that I log on to find out what happens, I would honestly return it (and who returns books?). I think that if such texts were designed for online publication, then interspersing videos would be ideal. They came up with that idea already; it’s called hypertext. But please, leave my four-by-six mass-market editions alone.

One of my favorite things about the NCTE Inbox is that it works for me like a selective lit and ed news aggregator. This week, in addition to the aforementioned “book” article, it brought me an essay about teaching writing: another of my primary interests at the moment because I teach sophomore composition. (A stack of essays is waiting to avalanche me in just a few minutes.) The author, a former writing instructor, shares his experiences teaching college students and adults about how to write. These perspectives always interest me because one of the reasons I became a high school teacher was to help create better adult writers. It is a classic teacher fallback to blame previous instructors’ inadequacies and failings for your students’ missing abilities. (You, a tenth-grader, can’t spell? Your third-grade teacher must have sucked.) As a sophomore, I nearly drooled from my dropped jaw when an English major classmate couldn’t punctuate dialogue. (Of course you need quotation marks around things the characters said!) With every grammar lesson I teach, I take one small step toward fighting the disintegration of writing skills that has plagued Generation IM.

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