Becoming a proficient reader is a difficult and time-consuming task. MaryAnn Wolf, in her books Proust and the Squid (2008) and Reader come Home (2018) uses some vivid imagery to explain just how complex the process is, reading issues such as dyslexia, the problems of illiteracy and digital disruption to the reading brain. There has been substantial debate on the impact of reading using digital devices. The discussion began with an article by Nicolas Carr (2008) followed by his book, The Shallows (2011). The Guardian article of Wolf (2018), resulted in a further flurry of discussion, while other researchers, including Willingham (2017) argue that the brain is plastic and changes are not permanent.
As parents and teachers, how do we navigate the apparent contradictions in research? General consensus leads us to believe that both digital and paper reading has a place and purpose, and we should be mindful of what is done when.
Tips for parents:
The majority of student’s reading should still take place off-line using physical books
Students should be able to read at least one book for pleasure reading per week at their level of comfort – ensure you are setting aside time for undistracted print reading
Encourage students to read in their home language
For students who need help with reading we suggest pairing an audiobook with the physical book
Read-aloud to your children – even in middle and high school
Model good reading hygiene including screen-free reading time and book discussions
When students are researching for facts and overview, digital reading is fine, but employ a pop-up blocker or tool (such as Evernote webclipper, AdBlockPlus or Mercury Reader) so they can read without distractions.
Allows a higher level of abstraction
Better for grasping complexity of thought and argument
Results in deep analysis
Promotes understanding emotions and developing empathy
Focuses on perceived beauty
Heavy physical item that may get lost or damaged
Sometimes harder to find or access
Resources at WAB
Three trained and experienced Teacher-Librarians who welcome requests for recommendations
Access to eBooks and AudioBooks through Kindle Books and iPod Shuffle (MS) and Overdrive/Sora (Whole school)
Access to over 7,000 magazines and newspapers in their native languages with the further ability to translate into 18 languages, in 120 countries through PressReader
Find Out More
For more information, feel free to borrow the referenced books from our libraries, or see the articles saved in our Libguide.
Carr, N. (2008, July 1). Is Google Making Us Stupid? Retrieved April 23, 2019, from The Atlantic website: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/
Carr, N. G. (2011). The shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: W.W. Norton.
Willingham, D. T. (2017). The reading mind: a cognitive approach to understanding how the mind reads. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wolf, M. (2018, August 25). Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound. Guardian.
Wolf, M., & Stoodley, C. J. (2008). Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain. New York: Harper Perennial.
Wolf, M., & Stoodley, C. J. (2018). Reader, come home: the reading brain in a digital world. New York: Harper.