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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 4, No. 4 - July/August 2012

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Kindle the Author in Your Child

By Rev. Dr. Kim Miller

Parents these days don't have to push their children towards modern technology. It's our kids who drag us towards this week's 'must have' gadget. OK, so my new smart phone taught me how dumb I really am, but I am a tech-head from way back and part of me loves the gadget-strewn yellow brick road.

I started writing when I was very young. My handwriting was messy and I learned to use my mother's typewriter. I loved the technology of pressing this key and that lever jumping out and hitting the paper. Typos didn't matter when the tech-head in me loved the machine for its own sake.

When I was about ten I was given a small printing press. A rotating drum held rubber letters that I would set up by hand. It ran against an ink roller and pulled a small page through. Here was a machine capable of multiple copies. I was captivated.

One hundred years earlier a young boy named Frank Baum had a similar printing press and he printed a family newsletter on it. Frank went on to write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Do you remember the machinery behind the curtain in the movie? That was Frank's tech-head side revealed behind his fantasy world.

In another story, The Master Key, Frank writes of telephones that don't need wires and everyone carries one. There is also a portable gadget that can show what is happening anywhere in the world in the last twenty four hours. He almost sees the laptop and twitter back in 1901.

This is where we dive back to my opening comments about your children. One of the gadgets they will want is an e-reader. Yes, I know you can read e-books on a desktop but I believe a dedicated e-reader is a must-have.

Like many authors I rejected e-readers. They would reduce our royalties, decimate the industry, bring doom on us all, destroy the world. OK, they are probably not quite that bad. One day the tech-head in me won out and I bought one. Suddenly I was hooked. There was something different happening here. It's not only about reading. It's also about writing.

Frank Baum and I, we had little printing presses. We could print our words and give them a heightened sense of authority. When people hold a printed page in their hand, those words have bite. They become more than a handwritten note under a fridge magnet. Those words become part of the printed universe and they have gravity of their own.

Kids these days need to experience that gravity. Printing a page off a desktop computer is the equivalent of my mother's typewriter but e-readers give more. They often run on wireless and 3G networks and can receive emails. They are the equivalent of having a little printing press.

Think through the possibilities. You are on the train, reading your child's latest family newsletter or short story on your e-reader. Other family members are elsewhere and reading the same page. Your children have entered a new universe and their words have a new gravity.

My young adult novel, They Told Me I Had To Write This, is about a teenager who writes letters as a way or dealing with the trauma of his life. I wonder, now that I have an e-reader, if I would now write the book a little differently. I'd like the character to have the best at his disposal. With e-readers taking the place of printed paper, the impact of the published word is being felt from a new direction.

It's hard to keep up with the pace of technology. Rather than being pushed along by it, sometimes it's better to grasp it firmly and make it work for us. When your kids start pestering you for the next gadget, don't forget the possibilities of the world in which that gadget has authority. That old saying about the pen being mightier than the sword; even in the high-tech world of our children, that saying carries truth.

More Information

Rev. Dr Kim Miller
P: 02 5962 4774
kmiller@samaritans.org.au
www.kimmiller.id.au

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