Human beings were never born to read. Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new. Reading changed the brain and changed the way we think and feel. And now we are seeing how technology is transforming the brain and a question we are beginning to get some answers to is cause for concern. What is happening to the reading brain as it unavoidably changes to adapt to digital mediums.
There is a part of the brain that is responsible for deep reading, which is the active process of thoughtful and deliberate reading in the interest to enhance one’s comprehension, which is the opposite of skimming or superficial reading. If you think of the brain as a muscle, the parts that are not exercised do not develop, they atrophy. A brain that is more and more dependent on screens affect a person’s critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination and empathy that comprise deep reading.
A few sobering facts
• The Core Curriculum at Columbia University is a required class with an average of 200-300 pages of reading each week and professors are finding that many students can’t get through their assignments due to decreased in attention span.
• In the 1990’s 3-5% of American school age children were thought to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, By 2013 that number was 11%
• Sherry Turkle, an M.I.T. sociologist and psychologist in her book “ Reclaiming Conversation” tells how children, rather than competing with siblings for their parent’s attention, are up against phones, iPad, Siri, and Alexa, apple watches and computer screens.
In Shakespeare’s time, the word conversation meant two things—verbal discourse and sex. That’s how intimate the most well-known poet and playwright in the English language viewed the act of talking with another person.