The lost art of using reference books

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snakes“Can you look it up?”

I hear that a lot, from my 7-year-old son, especially when it comes to questions about snakes.

And by “look it up,” he doesn’t mean open a book: He means talk to my phone (in the form of a Google search) or type a query into Google (and find something online, typically at Wikipedia).

Now we’re able to “look it up”—to find the answer to just about any question, or so it sometimes seems—from anywhere.

I wrote about this in a recent column:

It’s the most ordinary thing in the world now to view online videos, search engines and Wikipedia as the keys to the world’s knowledge. That’s especially true for kids growing up without ever really knowing a time before laptop computers and handheld smart phones made so much information available with so much ease. Yet as kids are returning to school, I’d like to urge us to examine — to question — what we’re teaching our kids with our wholesale, don’t-look-back rejection of books as the sine qua non of knowledge.

Check out what I have to say about the lost art of using reference books.

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