Bookish Thought: Technology’s Effect on Reading and Our Brains

Being a book blogger, I am always interested in anything and everything to do with books and reading. Being someone of the millennial generation makes me interested in various topics related to technology, especially when it comes to the negative and positive impacts technology has on us humans. I’ve done a couple different articles that are similar in topic: Environmental Impact of E-Readers and Unplugging.

I’ve actually been sitting on this topic for a while. It became an idea for a post when I came across a couple different articles that talk about findings from neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf. Wolf, an expert on the science of reading, conducted an informal experiment because she started to worry that she was losing the knack for deep, sustained reading. She wrote about her experiment and her findings in her book Reader, Come Home.

In her article in the Guardian, she talks about how as our dominant medium is better suited for processes that are fast, multi-task oriented, and well-suited for large volumes of information, like the current digital medium, so will the reading circuit.

The article goes on to reiterate that as humans adapt and continue to consume quickly in our digital world, less time and attention will be focused on having slower, more time-demanding, and deeper reading processes that are best for learning inference, critical analysis, and empathy.

Multiple studies show that digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on reading comprehension in older high school and college students.

While these negative affects tend to show up in younger ages, it is not just a younger generation issue just as it is not a binary print vs. digital issue. It is about there are more mediums to read on, which impacts not only what we read, but also why we read.

With technology continuing to impact reading, and no slowing down, it seems that we need to adapt again and find a way to get people to do more deeper reading especially when it seems that skimming is the new norm when it comes to reading.

Seeing how innovative technology has become and the positive impacts it’s had is amazing. Because of all the positives, I think it’s sometimes hard to really look deeper and accept that there are also plenty of negatives on us humans.

It makes me sad to think that there are kids out there who are not discovering the immense joy that comes from getting completely swept away by a book and allowing their imagination to take hold. Or what it feels like when you discover a book that you know you will love forever or even a genre, especially when many grades/ schools have required reading lists.

I can only hope that with so many of us still enjoying deep reading and reading in general, we can somehow pass the love of reading on to younger generations.

What are your thoughts on technology’s effect on reading? Leave a comment below!

Sources/ Related Articles:

Slate’s Reader, Come Home review by Laura Miller

WBUR’s Radio Interview with Maryanne Wolf

The Guardian’s Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound by Maryanne Wolf

The Verge’s Interview with Maryanne Wolf

Psychology Today’s The Effects of Digital Technology on Reading by Martin Kutscher

SF Gate’s As technology advances, deep reading suffers by Nicholas Carr

13 thoughts on “Bookish Thought: Technology’s Effect on Reading and Our Brains

  1. All 3 of my kids have kindles, but none of them prefer to read on it. They do use them for audiobooks, though. They prefer physical copies. I like physical copies for my day reading and my kindle at night in bed. I have no idea of the impact on a grand scale, but fortunately I haven’t seen kindles negatively impact my own children’s reading. It’s sad to think that it might be affecting others this way, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear that there are no negative impacts! I’m acutally not sure if Kindles are included as a part of the technology medium. I guess they are though I read it as consuming on phones, tablets, etc


  2. Really interesting points. I think that as long as people are reading something, anything, whatever way, then that’s good. However, I’m sure that attention spans are shrinking! Our increasingly faster technology is making us expect things to happen faster and we’re flicking between different things all the time instead of focusing on one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, exactly! I think the fear is that with attention spans getting shorter, getting completely sucked into a book and deep reading will get harder for some

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is interesting! I agree that we have so many things competing for our attention nowadays and the screens don’t help. But then again, because of the screens, we’re reading (albeit texts and not novels) all the time, which I think is a lot more than before!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree with you – I read a lot more news articles now because of my phone and the internet. But being an avid reader, I don’t find it hard to deep read. I guess if I used Twitter and those kind of mediums a lot more I might have more trouble

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the articles. I have banned e-readers during SSR (silent sustained reading) because I believe (and there must be research to prove it) that there is not synapse activity reading with a glass/plastic medium due to the inability to carry forward the charge. Think static electricity—to avoid shock a person touches glass. However, paper is organic and the tactile connection of paper to skin to brain is conducive to synapse creativity. Pick up a book, put down the e-reader.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks :) For me, I just use my phone, which is terrible for my eyes probably. Reading a hard copy is just easier and better for me.


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