The Importance of Deep Reading

I’ve long wondered about the differences between reading in print, reading online, and reading in mobile formats. Science is bearing out my belief that our brains apprehend and process language differently in different mediums.

Technology is changing the way we read, with a much greater emphasis on skimming and speed reading. Apps like Spritz—well-intentioned though they may be—intrinsically promote an idea that reading isn’t worth investing time, a belief that deep reading is flawed because it’s inefficient.

I can’t believe that this is a good thing. So I was very happy to read this article:

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer by Annie Murphy Paul (posted by Time on June 3, 2013)

It’s an excellent summary of the importance of deep reading. Intentional, invested, slow reading.

Recent research in cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience has demonstrated that deep reading—slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity—is a distinctive experience, different in kind from the mere decoding of words. … [W]hen readers are enjoying the experience the most, the pace of their reading actually slows. The combination of fast, fluent decoding of words and slow, unhurried progress on the page gives deep readers time to enrich their reading with reflection, analysis, and their own memories and opinions.

This is where apps like Spritz go off track. Reading faster takes away time that we need to really live with the stories, the characters, the language—to fully explore them, to let them steep in our minds. Reading is far more than simply seeing words in sequence. It’s not just about understanding the words—it’s about understanding the story and establishing personal connections to it. It’s about living inside the experience. It requires time.

If efficiency is the only value that matters when we read, we cheat ourselves of the freedom to become fully immersed in the story. It’s the antithesis of deep reading.

Deep reading is essential to keep the brain and mind healthy, vibrant, adaptable. We must make effort to teach the importance of it, to promote the value of taking time to read without distractions, without pressure, without thinking about the clock.

Reading isn’t about efficiency. Reading is about the quality of the experience.


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