Scientists suggest we need to train our brain to become bi-literate so we don't lose the ability to read long works

Christina Drill
September 18, 2014

Haven't finished a novel in a while? Don't worry, you're not alone.

Not a surprise, but our brains are changing because the way we process information has changed drastically in the past ten years. Because of all the time we spend on the internet, our brains have readjusted to the way we perceive information now, which is to say, in short bursts over a long period of time. Naturally, it's a completely different experience, say, reading a legal document that's printed out while sitting at a desk than it is reading a legal document on a computer where you can easily take a break to check your e-mail or answer a text message.

Maryann Wolf, the author of Proust and The Squid and the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research, calls upon readers young and old to train their brains to become "biliterate"-- that is, able to focus just as easily on on-screen reading as off-screen reading.

The way that you should train your brain, according to Wolf, is the good old fashioned way of forcing yourself to get off the computer and focus on the actual task of reading. She says the more you train your brain to read slowly and in long intervals, the easier it will be to read- and finish-- a longer body of work.

"In the old days before the internet, reading was a linear event," Mike Rosenwald, a Washington Post staff writer, explains on WNYC's segment New Tech City. "There are things in our lives, whether they be novels, short stories, mortgage documents, whatever, that actually [require] slow reading." Wolf suggests that the difference between skimming and deep reading is actually the same difference there is between work and play-- work just demands more concentration from your brain.

So really, the problem here isn't YOU, it's biology, and the fact that our brains are simply adapting to the way we read now. Don't feel too awful about yourself, but know that it is possible to train your brain to do what you want it to.

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