Public anxiety about the ability of children of the digital age and young adults to read anything more than a screenshot has become a moral panic. But there is much evidence to suggest that we should take that concern seriously.
In 2016, the US National Endowment for the Arts. UU. He reported that the proportion of American adults who read at least one novel in 2015 dropped to 43.1 percent from 56.9 percent in 1982.
In 2018, a US academic UU. He reported that in 1980, 60 percent of 18-year-old students read a book, newspaper or magazine every day that they were not assigned to the school. By 2016, the number had plummeted to 16%.
Those same 12th grade students reported that they spent “six hours a day sending text messages, on social media and online.”
American and neuroscientific literacy expert Maryanne Wolf describes the threat posed by screen reading to our ability to “slower cognitive processes such as critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination and empathy that are part of deep reading” .
Will the combination of continuously stimulating distractions of children’s attention and immediate access to multiple sources of information give young readers less incentive to build their own knowledge repositories or to think critically for themselves?
But instead of taking defensive positions on both sides of the digital-analog reading division, Wolf encourages us to accept both. As parents and teachers we can help our children develop a bilingual reading brain. There are several ways we can do this.
Reading is a learned skill that requires the development of particular neural networks. And different reading platforms encourage the development of different aspects of those networks.
Screen-reading children, immersed since childhood in the pleasures and instant gratification of skimming, clicking and linking, develop cognitive skills that make them expert navigators of power, good in the useful ability to search for information and analyze data.
But Wolf suggests that this type of reading “can cause a short circuit in the development of the slower and more cognitively demanding processes of understanding that enter into the formation of deep reading and deep thinking.”
Unless the cognitive skills required for deep reading are developed and nurtured in a similar way, new generations of readers, distracted by the immediate availability of digital information, may not learn to venture beyond the few waters of the reading experience. .
Together with others interested in early childhood education, Wolf advises promoting paper literacy since childhood. She does not recommend prohibited devices. Instead, we should turn them off regularly and make the time and space to read paper books with children.
We can model our own reading practices by setting aside our own smartphones to get lost in a book.
But how can secondary and tertiary teachers help inexperienced readers? It is likely that the problem is literacy, which means that students can read, but choose not to because they do not see it as important for learning. And because they haven’t read much, it’s hard work. The problem may seem intractable. But it can be done.
Turn off the phone and read
My first adventure to help higher education students read better was a project funded by the 2011-2013 interuniversity government that set out to foster what we call “reading ability.” We discovered that if students were persuaded to prioritize reading while taking an exam or an essay, they would invest the time to enter the area that is the other world of the text.
We complemented complex texts with a guide that encouraged students to think critically while reading and continue when the language seemed impenetrable, the narrative incomprehensible (or boring) and the endless length. Or when the smartphone siren became irresistible.
They experienced turning off their devices for two-hour blocks while simply reading. And they read.
Students prioritized this difficult work because we reward pre-class reading with notes. Some classes loaded a page, carefully discussed answers; others answered complex questionnaires with many comments.
I inspected a great first-year introduction to literary studies at the University of Queensland in 2013 before trying a version of the same “reading resistance” course in 2014. The increase in reading rates was exponential.
The number of students who completed the ten primary texts (including the poem Beowulf and the Beloved by Toni Morrison) tripled and the number that completed the ten accompanying secondary texts (selected chapters of an introduction to literary theory and criticism) increased in more than six times.
Student satisfaction reported for this course from 2008 to 2012 ranged between 64 and 75 percent. Once the reading capacity was introduced, many complained about the reading load, however, the level of overall satisfaction jumped to 86 percent.
We can all do it
Not only readers reared in the digital age have difficulties with long format text. Have you lost the ability of deep reading? Do you find it increasingly difficult to keep, for example, a literary novel? You’re not alone.
Wolf, who despite having two titles in literature, confesses the surprising discovery that he recently found himself struggling to keep a beloved novel by Herman Hesse.
We can also turn off our devices and reserve a space and time to revitalize the neural pathways that once made us immersive readers.
As Wolf argues, “deep reading” skills that involve “slower cognitive processes and that require more time” […] they are vital to the contemplative life. “Deep readers are likely to be more thoughtful members of the community at a time when good citizenship has never been more important.
By Judith Seaboyer, principal professor at the University of Queensland
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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