Friday, April 11, 2014

How We're Losing Our Ability To Read Deeply

I found this article on how our human brains are adapting to the cursory reading style of the Internet fascinating.  I've always been a skimmer when I want or need to be, something I picked up back in elementary school when I was part of a trial speed reading program.  I found I could, with practice, dramatically increase my reading speed while only suffering moderate reduction in comprehension of the material.  To me, this seemed like a useful skill, though not something I'd want to do all the time.  As an example, I decided to read Heart of Darkness a year or two ago on Vicki's Kindle because I'd always been interested in learning how it influenced Apocalypse Now, one of my favourite movies, and yet had never tried the book before.  Within a few pages of starting it, though, I realized it wasn't written in a style that I'd personally enjoy.  So I kicked into high-speed and blew through it in about half an hour, picking up most of the key points of the plot without spending any time absorbing the nuances or even most of the word choices.  In general, though, I'd never read a book that way as I want to lose myself in it and savour every bit of it.

Anyway, it sounds like more and more people are (perhaps unintentionally) adapting their reading style to a similar cursory approach, thanks to the Web.  Studies are finding that people miss out on many of the details or even quit reading partway through, especially if they're reading on a screen rather than a paper page, simply because their attention wanders or they get bored.  It's pretty frightening to think that's the way current and future generations are headed, considering how much learning and unadulterated fun can be found by reading, if you invest yourself into it.

Needless to say, I hope that Leap of Faith and all my other novels continue to capture readers' imaginations and keep the pages a-turning.

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