Books Are Unsustainable<!-- --> | <!-- -->Assume Wisely
Books Are Unsustainable

Books Are Unsustainable

Posted: May 16, 2018

LeVar Burton spoke at UVU tonight as the keynote speaker for their Dual Mission Summit. LeVar is well known for his role as Kunta Kinte in Roots and Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge of the starship Enterprise. But the role that brings everyone to their feet for a standing ovation is his work as host of Reading Rainbow.

Did you know that the producers of Reading Rainbow sought LeVar out specifically for the role? Did you know LeVar is a fierce advocate for children’s literacy? They had to have him. LeVar is known for his roles on film and television yet he sees himself as a storyteller. For the hour or so we spent with him he took us through his story.

The Power of Storytelling: Written – Spoken – Lived

All media is education. What are you teaching? The mission of Reading Rainbow is to provide books and other media that resonates with kids. These days kids want to be on their tablets. In the 80s it was their TV. While the message has not changed the medium has. Reading Rainbow launched as a television series that aired from 1983 to 2009. But LeVar’s vision for the message has moved to mobile, tablets, even VR and gaming. There was even a nice reference to the holodeck.

The old model of creating books from trees is not sustainable. He urges the audience to embrace digital media. He speaks about the power of visual media and the power of video games. Moving pictures and sounds can tell a story on multiple levels, conscious and unconscious. Video games, he says, is where kids are going to absorb the myths of our culture. He concludes, “I don’t want to read on the internet tonight that LeVar says we are getting rid of books.” The medium may change but the message is the same:

The stories we tell inform who we are, why we’re here, and where we’re going. The stories we tell reveal what our contribution will be.

He talks about the emphasis on STEM. He advocates for us to update our thinking to STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Math. He then ups the ante one more time introducing STREAM. The R is for . . . reading. You might say well of course reading. Reading is fundamental to the rest. That is the point.

Reading is the fundamental to learning.

For a young LeVar Burton, reading was a vehicle. His mother, Erma Jean Burton, was a voracious reader. She instilled this fundamental skill in him. Erma Jean had high expectations for her son: “I am the man that I am because she was the woman that she was.” She knew that as person of color LeVar faced grim realities. Reading empowered a young LeVar to face these realities. Reading gave him access to a story: “The story my mother told me. The story I embraced.” Reading empowered him with access to lifelong learning:

“A lifelong learner is a dangerous person indeed.”

Our human superpower is the ability to imagine ourselves in the past, alternate presents and future. There is an inextricable link between what we imagine and what we create. Stories shape our imagination.

How To Tell Powerful Stories

I was really hoping to get some tips on writing more powerful stories. I will say this. Every sentence of his remarks could be a tweet. Very precise. He told a series of stories from his life. Now when I think of a story, I think plot. His stories where character driven. He talked about important people in his life and those people informed the story. Three of those people he identified as storytelling mentors: Gene Roddenberry , Alex Haley , and Fred Rodgers .

Read, Ponder, Pray

He concluded with what I took as his version of the LDS mantra, read-ponder-pray:

Be still, stand in love, and pay attention. Love is the only sane response to the human experience.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Git Sum (un)common sense,

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© 2018 · Rho Lall