Reading in Times of Global Crisis…

I hope that all of you are healthy and safe!

Given the unprecedented and uncertain times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to give a brief update regarding my dedication to literature and literacy on this blog:

I cannot stress enough the importance of media literacy. Understanding the ideas and their implications expressed through various media, from videos to radio alerts to broadsheet newspaper articles, is a key skill in the 21st century, yet the last few months have proven this ability of critically evaluating information to be beyond price. Technology gives us access to scores of resources, be it statistical data or news-reports, yet it also puts great responsibility on the shoulders of us – its daily consumers. It is up to us, media users, to discern the significance of numbers and trendlines or evaluate testimonies, advice, and opinions in the context of the ongoing global health crisis. I hence urge you to exercise critical thinking, analyse every source, and scrutinise the conclusions drawn by the media. Trust, but verify – wise words historically used in the context of a different crisis altogether – are no less true today. Seeking out and comparing alternative views and fact-checking both scientific and qualitative claims are useful methods which may lead us to understanding the current situation as fully and as objectively as possible. In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, media literacy is the key to preventing a ‘pandemic’ of fear, panic, and misinformation.

Having already surpassed my initial goal set at $1000 on Room to Read, I decided to radically reduce the price of my novel, setting it to the lowest possible value on all platforms. Waterdown is, in fact, now available for free on Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Although I have pledged to donate all royalties gained from the sales of this work to my literacy fundraiser, in these exceptional circumstances I firmly believe in supporting those of you – my readers – who are self-isolating or in quarantine at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our society, not only those directly on the front lines or sick with the virus, but also all those of us who are forced to stay inside, who cannot work or study effectively, and who have lost all close social and physical contact with friends and family. The current situation is a source of immense stress on every single person it impacts, which is why I hope to provide a source of rumination, relaxation, and perhaps entertainment by expanding the availability of my written work and making it open-source where possible. Moreover, I hope to hence actively support your reading and encourage literacy skills maintenance – competencies which are especially invaluable now, as I’ve previously outlined.

Please note that for the time being, I do still hope to use my own means to support Room to Read and their work in improving child-literacy globally. While I understand that these may be difficult times for anyone and everyone, personally and financially, I urge all those who can to aid Room to Read in furthering our common passion for reading and learning. In spite of COVID-19, this literacy non-profit has not been idle and I strongly encourage you to read their coronavirus-response statement and, more importantly, explore their new initiatives, which include providing children with reading material using their Literacy Cloud platform, as well as a YouTube playlist of read-out loud stories, all of it on-line and for free .

I sincerely hope that the message and values expressed in this post are something we can all share and reflect upon during the current global crisis.

Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay strong!

AS