On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
Who has time to read? The days of slow, thoughtful reading of the newspaper have been replaced with skimming the newsfeed on an iPhone. The problem isn’t limited to our consumption of the news. Our inability to read and process deep, nuanced thought affects our capacity for imagination and empathy. Our vocabulary shrinks and with it our range of expression.
Karen Swallow Prior said
If, like me, you have lived long enough to have experienced life—and reading—before the internet, perhaps you have now found your attention span shortened and your ability to sit and read for an hour (or more) nil. The effects on our minds of the disjointed, fragmentary, and addictive nature of the digitized world—and the demands of its dinging, beeping, and flashing devices—are well documented. Nicholas Carr explains in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains that “the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts— the faster, the better.” Our brains work one way when trained to read in logical, linear patterns, and another way when continually bouncing from tweet to tweet, picture to picture, and screen to screen. These effects on the brain are amplified by technology developers who intentionally build addictive qualities into programs in order to increase user engagement, as some industry leaders have acknowledged. Whether you feel you have lost your ability to read well, or you never acquired that ability at all, be encouraged. The skills required to read well are no great mystery. Reading well is, well, simple (if not easy). It just takes time and attention.
What are the obstacles to reading and to reading well? How can these obstacles be overcome?