I know I need to eat the right foods to stay healthy. According to the USDA’s recommendations, a balanced diet includes foods from five food groups: protein, vegetables, fruits grains and dairy. There used to be a food pyramid to guide me, but as nutritional science has changed, it is recommended that I build a ‘balanced plate’ and half of my plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. This helps me manage my diet so I don’t eat too much of the fun foods, like carbs and sweets.
We can compare today’s digital technology consumption along the same vein – we need a balanced diet of the right activities for a healthy reading brain. I can enjoy my time on Facebook and Twitter, along with aimless Google searches, but I need to make sure I still make time for other activities, such as deep reading for critical thinking.
An article by MindShift by Holly Korbey, Digital Text is Changing How Kids Read – Just Not in the Way That You Think, states that digital reading is “good in some ways, and bad in others”. While texting, social media and even gaming has increased word knowledge, it is not making kids better readers because they are not engaging in deep reading to enhance critical thinking.
And online interactions absorb a lot of time! According to this article, “the average 8- to 12-year old spends about 6 hours a day in front of a screen”. We need to ask ourselves what this is doing to us. Is it affecting our attention spans? Is it training our brains to crave fast-paced experiences that feed us with very little effort?
As I read the book, Reader, Come Home, I understand that many digital interactions do not develop our brain the way we need it to grow and learn over time. As illustrated in the figure below, critical thinking is developed during deep reading when we use multiple portions of our brain – both right and left hemisphere. We really don’t tap into these important regions when we are playing that game on our phones, right?
As mentioned by Wolf, “the formation of the reading-brain circuit is a unique achievement in the intellectual history of our species. Within this circuit, deep reading changes what we perceive, what we feel and what we know and in so doing alters, informs and elaborates the circuit itself.” Isn’t this the type of learning connections our children should pursue?
So, perhaps we need a guide that can help us manage our digital consumption just as well as we manage our food consumption. Is there a ‘balanced plate’ analogy that could help us understand how to ‘feed’ our reading brain?