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We also live in the era with lots of great literature for young people. The Harry Potter series went from 320 pages in book one to 652 pages in book six. Millions of children are awaiting an equally heavy book seven for Christmas delivery. Meanwhile, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events has captivated young readers through a series of 13 books. Unlike earlier book fads, such as Sweet Valley High in the 1980s and Goosebumps in the 1990s, these best-selling books are actually, well, literary.

That does not mean all is well for literacy and communication in the future. It isn’t clear whether all children are comfortable shifting from one form of written communication to another.

A lack of opportunity to develop in multiple language modes could cause language to develop in one way among one group and make those kids unable to communicate with those who have developed multiple literacies.

“Which kids are texting, when, and how?” asks Bertram Bruce, author of Literacy in the Information Age. “Are the same ones reading Lemony Snicket books? Do they read in the same or in new ways?”

“Linguistic class divisions are growing in the U.S.,” says Bruce. “My sense is that young people show enormous potential for creativity–just look at YouTube, graffiti, new music, and so on. At the same time, society tramples that creativity for the many oppressed by poverty and racism, and for the young people who have their lives defined by consumerism and mass production.”

Ironically, the problem may be prevented not by closing the digital divide by ensuring access to text technologies but by providing access to more traditional forms of literacy, like books.

“Text messaging and instant messaging have grown exponentially among kids, and that is likely a positive development,” says Shanahan. “While I see the value of all of this new communication technology, I would argue that we need to protect time for more cognitive or intellectual technologies–those technologies that do more to help us think more deeply rather than those aimed at more-immediate social sharing of information–as well.”

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