Our Brains May be Shorting out on Skimming

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As I painted my son’s ceilings over spring break, I listened to the the radio streaming from my computer in the next room. A piece came on about our brains and the effects of skimming material while surfing the Internet in our Information Age. Maryanne Wolf, a cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts University, said that we have begun to lose our ability to process complex sentence structures even as we have created this amazing ability to look quickly for the information we need.

I found myself nodding my head as I dripped white paint into my hair and splattered it on my glasses with the roller.

Last week I talked about my bookmares and how I cannot get through tough scenes in audio books. When it gets too heavy in audio, I have to get the print book so I can skim to the safer parts. I’ve also written about how I often prefer reading with my ears because the audio versions make me slow down and drink in the images I might otherwise push through to find out what happens next.

I don’t imagine I can now let go of the actors reading to me in my car, but Maryanne Wolf made me want to try a bit of complex reading or, at the very least, do more print reading to keep my brain in shape. I’m always telling my students how good it is for their brains to learn a language. (I’ve got to say something encouraging about the gargantuan task now and then to keep them going.)

I’d feel insincere if I didn’t take some of my own medicine, so I am now shopping for dense language in well written books. Suggestions, again, are welcome.

Pictures of skimming escaped me today. But I did find a video of this crazy event I never knew of before: pond skimming. Maybe skimming in reading is just as fun as these goofy people who made me smile this morning. I’m hoping for warmer weather and water when I soak in the pool of words in a book.

 

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