What is Happening to Reading in Today’s World?

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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.

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