Digitization of traditional materials and the production of new digital ones has given prominence to the digital reader. While at first the process of reading digitally versus traditionally in hard paper may seem the same, different studies have indicated that new reading habits are formed each time we practice online reading.
Observations indicate that our affinity with the reading material is changing, at the expense of deep reading. What does this mean?
What is deep reading after all?
According to the scholar Maryanne Wolf, the deep reading brain involves processes such as “internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight”.
Deep reading is a rich experience, where each word is absorbed, deep sensations are enhanced and imagination is activated. Because it involves so many different processes, it is usually slow, and hence, considered inefficient. This is why we tend to neglect deep reading in our daily busy lives, where skimming and scanning take its place.
My advice is to know when to use each type of reading. When you are reading a novel for example, you should not be in a rush. You should fully enjoy it, beyond understanding. You should live with the characters, imagine the settings, their feelings, their looks. On the contrary, if you are trying to get yourself acquainted with the daily news, skimming through the headlines can give you a brief overview. If something of interest catches your eye, then you can dwell deeper into it, activating your slow reading mode.
7 tips on how to practice deep reading
- Allocate some daily uninterrupted reading time. It doesn’t need to be much time at first. You can start from 30 minutes, and then adjust based on your daily schedule. The important thing is to deliberately make time for reading, without leaving it at randomness.
- Make sure to decorate or adjust your surroundings in such a way that trigger your inspiration. If you prefer cafes or cozy places like me, then grab a book the next time you sit for your morning or afternoon coffee. In addition, remind yourself to put your phone away, in order to avoid potential distractions.
- Try taking notes while reading. If you are reading a newspaper article or a book, then you can either underline, or write down somewhere else an idea, a thought that came to your mind, or a quote that you would like to come back later.
- Always attempt at identifying a key message or a theme of what you are reading. You can start from a broader topic and then narrow it down. For example, if you are reading a book of economics, then the theme of economics, can be narrowed down to economics of inequality in the USA, etc. This will help you focus better and also stick that important idea to your head.
- Reflect and recall where else you have encountered similar concepts in your previous classes, readings, trainings etc. What are the similarities? How does the analysis perspective differ? Does it teach you something regarding new paradigms of schools of thought? Can something new come out of this?
- Measure your reading pace. How many pages have you read during these 30 minutes? Do not worry about the quantity though. This is just to give you a sense of discipline, into the habit of deep reading. At the end, quality of reading will matter more than the quantity of pages.
- Do not start another intellectual activity right away after you finish reading. Take some minutes to let it all sink, until your reflections on the reading material are fully shaped.
Ultimately, deep reading is something that cannot be taught in theory. As any other habit, it takes lots of practice to be built, perfected and maintained. I think it is worth it though. Our intellectual capacity is a characteristic trait of humanity and we need to nourish it continuously, without taking it for granted.