For my Library Information Sources and Services class, we have to comment about current events relating to the library world. I found this article about the benefits of slow reading and the advent of Silent Reading Parties. I thought the effect of technology on our brain and reading patterns was really interesting, and the silent reading events sounded like so much fun and something that libraries could easily host. So I wanted to share my post with y'all as well. Maybe you'll find a Silent Reading Party somewhere near you and take part - or at least use this as an excuse not to feel guilty about time spent curled up with a good book!
Here's my post:
A recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out the benefits of a sustained, silent reading time - not just for kids in Elementary school - but for adults as well. The article goes into detail about how the advent of technology, texts, twitter, and screen reading has changed the way our brains focus and read text. "Screens have changed our reading patterns from the linear, left-to-right sequence of years past to a wild skimming and skipping pattern as we hunt for important words and information. One 2006 study of the eye movements of 232 people looking at Web pages found they read in an "F" pattern, scanning all the way across the top line of the text but only halfway across the next few lines, eventually sliding their eyes down the left side of the page in a vertical movement toward the bottom. None of this is good for our ability to comprehend deeply, scientists say" (Whalen "Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress"). Over time, researchers fear that this type of reading may impact our ability to comprehend complicated texts or contemplate new concepts. In addition, fewer people are scheduling uninterrupted reading time - without the distraction of incoming texts, pausing to check emails or other modern-day distractions.
In reaction to this lack of reading time, some groups around the world have starting hosting Silent Reading Parties. At these events, often hosted at a bar or coffee shop, people bring a book (or e-book, as long as its internet connectivity is turned off) and sit around and read uninterrupted, but together. After about an hour or more, the readers then spend some time socializing with each other (Whalen "No Devices, No Talking").
So how does this relate to libraries? My first thought, when I saw a video interview with the Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote the article, was "Libraries could do this!" Libraries seem like a natural choice to host Silent Reading Events - we can even supply the books. Some modern libraries even have coffee shops connected to them, which could enhance the social gathering aspect of the event. I particularly like the idea of hosting one of these types of events at college libraries. As academic reference librarians, we could provide the information to the students about the benefits of uninterrupted reading time - and then offer them an opportunity to try it out. Even when helping them with their research, reference librarians can point out the difference between skimming material to find out if it is pertinent to their subject, and the next step: slowly, silently reading the material to comprehend and apply what is being explained. It seems an important skill to point out, especially with today's millenial generation which has grown up with much shorter bursts of information bombarding them all the time.
I personally think one of these silent reading parties sounds like a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of every day life. To relax uninterrupted with a book sounds like a true luxury. How nice to learn that it is also beneficial for our brains!
Whalen, Jeanne . "No Devices, No Talking... Just Silence and Reading ."Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. Wall Street Journal Live. WSJ Live, New York : 15 Sept. 2014. Online. http://lisnews.org/no_devices_no_talkingjust_silence_and_reading
Whalen, Jeanne . "Read Slowly to Benefit your Brain and Cut Stress." Wall Street Journal [New York] 16 Sept. 2014, sec. Life & Culture: n. pag. Wall Street Journal Online. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. http://online.wsj.com/articles/read-slowly-to-benefit-your-brain-and-cut-stress-1410823086