Becoming truly literate is a choice. Reading done well is not a passive activity like sitting in front of a screen. It requires a degree of attention, engagement, and active questioning of which most of our children currently have a deficit. The core question is not whether you hold in your hand an old-fashioned paper book or a new electronic book, but rather that even when you read from a screen, you develop the self-discipline to ignore the temptation to check email or scores or social media every few minutes. Reading done well requires a forward-leaning brain. Our culture’s ever-present distractions–the obsessive appeals to immediacy (“What ‘news’ might I be missing?”)–conspire to blunt our curiosity and distract us from sustained thought. The relentless pull of the digital world, with its demands that our kids submit to the shiny and the immediate, threatens to make them not just less literate but also more like subjects than citizens.