Book Recommendation

Over the time off between holidays at the end of 2023, I had the opportunity of checking out Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf from my local public library. Wolf looks into the digital age’s impact on the human brain, particularly in the context of reading.

She introduces the concept of “bi-literate” reading brains, emphasizing the necessity of navigating both traditional print and digital formats. I found this to be such an interesting term because it interwoven the theme of two formats I touched upon in my last post. She contends that the shift to digital reading has profound implications for the development of deep reading skills—critical thinking, empathy, and reflection—qualities she sees as essential in shaping our cognitive processes.

This book is a melting pot full of insights from cognitive science, linguistics, psychology, and education. Wolf integrates research findings, personal anecdotes, and historical perspectives to craft a nuanced narrative that takes the reader on a captivating intellectual journey through the evolution of the reading brain and its symbiotic relationship with written language.

Central to the book is the exploration of how digital technology impacts attention spans and the ability to concentrate during reading. Wolf argues that the digital environment, marked by constant distractions and the prevalence of short, fragmented texts, poses challenges to the sustained focus required for deep reading. She stresses the importance of cultivating cognitive patience, crucial for in-depth comprehension and analysis, qualities she fears are at risk in the digital age.

While expressing valid concerns about the impact of digital technology on reading, Wolf does not dismiss its potential benefits. She acknowledges the advantages of digital platforms in terms of accessibility, customization, and interactive features that can enhance the reading experience. However, she advocates for a balanced approach, one that integrates the strengths of both print and digital reading to preserve the cognitive richness associated with deep reading.

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World serves as a compelling call to action, encouraging readers to reflect on their reading habits and engagement with digital content. Wolf emphasizes a collective effort to cultivate deep reading practices, stressing the pivotal role of educators, parents, and policymakers in shaping a literate society capable of navigating the complexities of the digital age.

Victoria Swindle, MLIS, Library Technology Specialist at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC