I have been teaching for 13 years, which qualifies me to make certain observations about students. Having taught English-Language Arts in middle-school grades through the majority of this career, my teaching has focused on developing the skills of reading and writing. I think these are critical skills in the Information Age, a historic period in the 21st century, and I am reflecting about the growth and development of students during the digital age.
One of my observations about students pertains to their reading habits. I notice in our increasingly digital world – where many children spend more time on social media and gaming than on just about any other activity – that reading has become less common in the daily lives of children. Free time can now be consumed by devices that offer distractions that overshadow the quiet contemplation of a book.
What is the impact of these changing reading patterns? To explore this, I am perusing the book, Reader, Come Home, by Maryanne Wolf, which is an investigation of the reading brain in a digital world. Ms. Wolf is highly qualified to publish on this topic as she was the director of the Tufts Center for Reading and Language Research. A decade ago, she published Proust and the Squid which revealed how the human brain learned to read and how reading has transformed our thoughts and emotions as a species. This new book describes her concerns and hopes about what is happening to the brain as it adapts to the digital mediums.
I am grateful that I am not alone in this concern about our reading habits as we become increasingly dependent on digital technologies. As a teacher, I hope to better understand the changes in our society during the Information Age and the long-term impact on our students’ learning.