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DEAR Reader

December 11, 2014


Recently I have started to think about reading online. By reading, I don’t mean skimming or scanning. Certainly, when confronted with millions of results on a google search, we have to be able to quickly discern what links will be of value. But once we follow those links, can we stay put, parked on an idea long enough to digest it?

We have all heard disparaging remarks about how kids don’t like to read electronic books or how reading online is problematic for teachers because it is hard for students to focus when confronted with so many opportunities for diversions. And prima facia, these arguments feel persuasive. To let go of paper books is to let go of a past we often long to hold onto. But is there merit enough to these claims about online reading that we really should throw on the brakes and halt our spending on ebooks?

Maryann Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, a book about how reading in its different forms has changed the human brain through the ages, wonders, “What was going on with these students and professionals [who could not read deeply online]? Was the digital format to blame for their superficial approaches, or was something else at work?” (The New Yorker, Being a Better Reader“)

Is the digital format something in itself? Is it so dramatic of a shift that our old reading strategies no longer work or are we simply not employing strategies when reading online? Do we need to find new specific strategies? And is it only about reading strategies? As Anne Mangen, a professor at the National Centre for Reading Education and Research at the University of Stavanger, in Norway, notes in The New Yorker, “Reading is always an interaction between a person and a technology, be it a computer or an e-reader or even a bound book.”

Can we apply our old reading (technology) strategies to these new technology (reading) devices?


Reading has not changed much over the year, but it has always involved an interaction between a reader and a device.

Reading has not changed much over the years. It has always involved an interaction between a reader and a device.



Certainly the scope of the answer is far beyond one blog post, but I’d like to start by making the following suggestion about why students and adults don’t develop the “real reading” skills for ebooks as they do for printed books?


We wonder why kids don’t see online reading as real reading. It is because we don’t treat it as real reading.


It’s time we start treating reading on electronic devices as equal to (and quite possibly superior in some ways) to reading printed books.

Why don’t we start with D.E.A.R. time?


If you aren’t familiar with D.E.A.R. time, it stands for “Drop Everything and Read.” Inspired, in part, by the amazing Beverly Clearly and her character Ramona (is there little girl alive who doesn’t think she’s Ramona?), D.E.A.R. time basically means that students stop what they are doing and spend uninterrupted time reading.

We need to normalize the practice of reading electronic books and no longer treat it as something different. Let’s start today with our very young students. Let’s teach them to turn off everything else and get lost in a book – an ebook.

Later posts will examine other particulars about reading electronic books, but why not start today by treating electronic reading as if it’s a normal, expected thing, and devoting the same focus to an ebook that we give to physical books?

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One Response to DEAR Reader

  1. Jinane Chehade on December 11, 2014 at 3:43 am

    There has been research showing we use a different part of the brain when we read a print book. According to this research, our brain scan when we read on digital screen. It is the difference between “deep, slow” reading and “scatter” reading.
    link to pri.org
    I am a print book reader. Having said that, I just finished reading an iBook, a French Classic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After many attempts at reading on a digital screen I can finally say that this time around, my experience has been positive and fulfilling. I am not quite sure which of the factors, the writing or the format, contributed to my positive experience.
    I will be reading another iBook to figure this one out.


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