Bookish Thoughts: Skimming versus Deep Reading
In addition to my monthly posts of Word Nerd Confessions, Reader Round Ups, Why We Say, and Debatables, I’ve decided to chime in thoughts about book issues. This month deals with how electronic text has created the dilemma of skimming.
This is not a post so much about being pro or con towards e-readers, although I always request paper instead of electronic when request a review copy. From that you can surmise my stance.
Instead, I’m more concerned with how electronic reading has transformed overall reading habits. I’m not the only one either.
Maryanne Wolf , the Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at UCLA, is the author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. In an article from The Guardian (8/25/18), Wolf discusses research findings that indicate how the essential skill of “deep reading” might become jeopardized as electronic reading becomes more of the normal. Basically, if we don’t use it, we lose it.
Further studies indicate the increasing reluctance of university students to dive in and tackle older texts due to impatience with sifting through older syntax style and stiff vocabulary of authors from yesteryear. It takes work to read older books. True that. It’s just like losing the ability to climb three flights of stairs if one always takes the elevator.
Wolf‘s research also indicates that the damage to reading deeply can begin as early as fourth grade. This interprets as soon as students begin to read they are at an disadvantage due to the push to put electronics into their hands. Not having the ability to develop an appreciation or skill for deep reading means future readers have the potential of never gaining insights into more complicated texts such as Emerson, Proust, Bronte and a larger cadre of other pre-info bite writers.
What is happening is a style of reading known as “skimming” which is scanning sections of texts in a pattern, such as a Z, to absorb information. I’m thinking of the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course I had to take in summer school once upon a junior high year. Speed reading is what it went by in most circles. It admittedly came in handy. Skimming seems to be the rebrand.
Skimming does not sound like something Wolf promotes. She admits her attention span for reading complicated texts has diminished. With some personal introspection I realize I rarely sit and study a text or read a book like I used to. I still read a lot of books but solidly with deep satisfying comprehension? Not so much. This blog is an example. I put aside a really great book to write up these thoughts. Why?
I think issue of distractable reading has evolved as a deplorable habit. I bounce in and out of newsfeeds and sound bite updates and have lost sustainable attention span.
For one, I will become more conscious of how long I read and keep my phone across the room. Reading and texting are not companionable. Distracted reading is not life threatening but it is concerning.
Skimming. Anyone else found this to be an issue in their reading habits?
Yes, I also believe that “skimming” has been around for decades and just called different things. I don’t see that this is an issue related to just electronic reading. I sometimes skim for details in informational reading, but never in fiction that I’m enjoying. If I start to skim a novel, then I know that it’s time to set that one aside and find one that I really like!
I think attention span deficit is the greater issue. Skimming has its uses, but it shouldn’t become the main form of reading. Agreed, skimming a novel is a flag indicating a new read.
My attentions span and focus are DEFINITELY damaged. It helps somewhat that I lead a Bible study and so have to read closely and carefully in order to lead the discussion. Basically, I only focus when I know I’m going to be held accountable!
Accountability. Worthy solution.
I embraced ereading a few years ago but have found myself more and more returning to real books. I am far too easily distracted when I read a on device.
It seems to be a problem that affects everyone from preschoolers to adults.
My habit of skimming is a result of time-constraints and I find myself fondly missing the deep-reading plunges of my childhood.
I am determined to regain my deep focus reading. A friend suggested I read Jonathan Strange, which looks daunting.
Maybe you ought to start with some deep philosophical tomes, or detailed, textual medical journals.
Yes. 😀 Those should only be used as soporific aides.