Minister: ‘Reading not as sexy as Pokémon, but books are not the enemy’

Education minister Evarist Bartolo explains the importance of reading during summer, but warns of overexposure to gadgets and virtual reality

Education minister Evarist Bartolo launching this year's summer reading campaign
Education minister Evarist Bartolo launching this year's summer reading campaign

Education minister Evarist Bartolo remains adamant on the importance of reading, be it a book or an electronic tablet, but explained that overexposure to gadgets can lead to speech impediments and stunted social skills.

Speaking at the launch of the summer reading campaign in San Gwann, Bartolo joked that while a reading campaign may not be “as sexy as Pokémon” at the moment, it is important that children continue to read during the summer in order not to fall behind on what they learned throughout the scholastic year.

“Books and technology are not enemies. People have been saying that printed books and reading will die since the conception of radio and television. I do not believe this is so as the book was the latest technology to spread information at the time. Newer technology can only bring new ways to present information and to tell stories,” the minister said. “What is important for education is reading, not the physical book itself.”

Bartolo said technology can be used to encourage reading, pointing to the interactivity technology provides. By way of example, the minister mentioned students reading a poem about ants, while having virtual ants walk across the screen.

“The interactivity technology can give can engage children to read more, even if it deters them from reading from traditional books,” he said.

“However it is important to maintain the boundaries between reality and virtual reality for the sake of psychological health,” Bartolo stressed, making reference once again to the Pokemon trend ravaging through the island.

“While technology can be a great aid to education, it also does not allow the imagination to roam freely,” he said, making reference to a new wordless book "Pizu" which was launched today as part of the summer reading campaign. According to Bartolo, wordless books encourage children to be creative and create the story themselves.

The minister added that children exposed to excessive amounts of time on gadgets can develop speech impediments and stunted social skills if they do not interact enough with others.