Is Reading Dead?

One of the topics I became interested in when I wrote my book was critical reading; in fact, the chapter on critical reading is one that I’m particularly proud of.

In a recent post, Will Richardson raised the question of whether or not reading is dead from the perspective of young people today. Both Will’s post and the associated comments are worth reading.

One issue that worries me, and that was only briefly touched on in the discussion, is whether or not students today have the ability to read deeply.

In one of the comments to Will’s post, Kyle says

Reading is also changing. Reading is no longer a linear experience, where one reads one page after another. Reading now, especially on the Internet, is a three dimensional experience. The depth and breadth of content grows geometrically as multiple hyperlinks give readers the ability to dig into the background information that the author used to formulate their thoughts.

Okay, at least in principle I agree. But very little of what I’ve read in Web2.0 (e.g. blog postings, wiki articles, etc) is very deep. Many of the ideas are complex, but their explication tends to be in snippets, rather than in more fully developed compositions.

I don’t have an answer to this question. I know I found reading complex texts difficult when I was in college, perhaps as difficult as students today seem to find it. However, I don’t remember my contemporaries complaining about the difficulties that current students do. Today’s student’s strike me as impatient, or undisciplined. I may be wrong though. It could be just they way they’re articulating the same issues that we faced.

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2 Responses to Is Reading Dead?

  1. Martha says:

    Very interesting. Perhaps our own expectation of reading needs to be redefined. Kyle mentions that reading is no longer linear but takes on the characteristics of a “three dimensional experience.” You mention that most of what you read online isn’t deep but tends to be in “snippets. ”

    Perhaps critical reading becomes about being able to read small snippets in a three dimensional way, where the reader is responsible for making the “fully developed composition” come to life in his/her own mind.

    Reading is no longer about absorbing (and being able reflect critically upon) a single fully-developed text, but rather the reader becomes a new kind of author, actually — the author responsible for making a new kind of three-dimensional text out of various pieces of smaller, more granular content.

    This actually sounds like a kind of reading I wish I could do. . .

  2. Steve says:

    Perhaps I’m old school, but doesn’t your suggest make the reader do more of the work. It’s like the author does the research, but then reader needs to put it together. Or maybe the reader is the author now. If so, isn’t there still value to be had in someone knitting the pieces together in a meaningful way. Isn’t that what scholarship should be about?

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