Recently, my son's social studies class had to explore a topic they discussed by obtaining information outside of school.
My son's first inclination was to simply fire up the computer and access general information from a site on the Web — ignoring the fact his home contains a pretty full library, given that his father is a history professor.
Honestly, at his young age, I cannot blame him. As a kid in elementary school in the late 1970s, I recall going to the school library to do "research" on an assigned topic and simply copying a mass of information out of the school encyclopedia.
We learned how to cite the book that we used, but we did not fully explore our topic by using more sources than the one general encyclopedia that we felt held the key to all knowledge.
For too many kids today, surfing the Web represents the modern day equivalent of finding general information in the encyclopedia and simply downloading the entire page without absorbing a full understanding of the topic at hand.
Unfortunately, this happens with too many high school and college kids as well.
Luckily, I did not have to depend on educators to encourage me to read, although I had a wonderful English literature teacher named Ms. Simmons in high school who exposed us to books and required our class to read.
My reading habits were conditioned by my parents and an older brother who read voraciously before he left for college. More parents should encourage their children to read at home because it will help expand their vocabulary and critical thinking skills.
There are wonderful sites on the Web, but be careful to teach your children that sites affiliated with educational institutions are best.
I was lucky to have my intellectual curiosity heightened by exploring the book collections of my parents and my older brother. However, I am not certain that kids of the future will be able to stumble upon great works of literature on a Kindle the way I was able to at home.
If you don't have a library at home, encourage your children to go beyond Internet Explorer and explore books on whatever device works best, or find books at the public library.
Our ability to produce competent critical thinkers depends upon you.
Keith Berry is a married father of two who lives in the Westchase area.