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Why kids have to read

It was easy decades ago. No TV, mobile phones, iPad, tablets or computer games providing distraction. Reading was the single escape – after radio or comics – into the world of fiction and adventure. Movies were OK, but expensive and occasional, so most kids could read, and pretty well. But now there is a huge diversity of entertainment beamed directly to you on electronic devices, 24 hours of the day if you want. Thinking? Forget it. You don’t need to bother. Imagination? Don’t need it – we can do that for you. Flick the channels or start the game. It’s all pre-packaged in pacey, coloured parcels. Can’t delay – have to check this e-mail, or read that tweet. Must catch up on Facebook, or I’ll be left behind. Books? Well, maybe some time, when I’m old, eh? Jobs – there’ll always be jobs, so who cares? But will there always be jobs? Technology does two things. It creates new and exciting high-tech employment. Seen all the ads for IT professionals? They outnumber and out-pay most other jobs. But not everyone has the personality or the aptitude – you usually need to be hardworking, mathematically inclined – even a bit geeky and obsessive about it’s not hard to see one size does not fit all. Many jobs today didn’t exist ten years ago. Will that trend continue? Most certainly. The only thing kids these days can be sure of is that the future is changing so fast predictions are the stuff of fantasy. Train for what? What sort of job will you have in twenty years? Well, I’m not sure. Technology does more than create new jobs – it eliminates others, and wholesale. Meet the robots. Hundreds of thousands of them, able to do tasks better than humans, with more coming...and even smarter. Of course these don’t replace all jobs – yet – but they are already eliminating a major portion of less high-tech and more labour-intensive employment. So preparation for the future is more than working hard – bum up, head down. It’s acquiring the skills to deal with uncertainty, change and new innovations with tiers of technology advances. Be prepared. Ensure your brain isn’t locked out of reading skills or imaginations – both are engines to assist in coping with future uncertainty. My stories about Tom Hassler are written to get kids interested fast, with the pace to carry them along. Reading then becomes incidental. And when you forget you’re reading and enter the story, the magic of imagination takes over. But whatever you do, please keep reading – and talking about reading. For yourselves and your future.

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