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Reading habits face challenge in internet age

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By: Vijay Garg

Is reading dying or flourishing in the internet age? It’s a popular saying that a room without books is like a body without a soul. But unfortunately, since the last few years, it is a sad reflection that the culture of reading has also persistently been declining not only in country but all around the world.

As a result, we are growing more intolerant and biased in our social behaviours which is also indicative of our intellectual decay. The strength of people in libraries is decreasing with every passing day. Newspaper vendors are shutting shops, children are not reading anymore.

The habit of book reading is declining when we talk about reading physical books, newspapers, etc, but not digital reading. Reading isn’t dying. People, in a sense, read all the time. Whether it be this prompt, social media messages, notifications and news reports, people are always reading. But the reading span has drastically reduced. We are now scrolling, not actually reading enough to hold our attention.

The root of the problem lies in our flawed education system that doesn’t encourage students to read books other than their specified textbooks. Parents also do not encourage their children to read any more. The popularity of digital devices and the internet has also brought a decline in book reading habits.

The truth of the day is that digital addiction is shrinking our memories and eroding our attention span. Fear is growing that unless we learn to unplug now, we will become the slaves of technology. According to a study by Microsoft, an average human being now has an attention span of eight seconds. This is a sharp decrease from 12 seconds in the year 2000. By the way, the attention of a goldfish is put at nine seconds.

The art of reading, the fundamental skill, which is the passport to all learning, is losing its charm fast. But it needs to be revived. We need to start from scratch. Capabilities of reflection, analogical understanding, critical inquiry, and empathy are developed by in-depth readings.

Digital reading, especially if introduced in early childhood, encourages skimming while discouraging reflective interaction with the text. To revive the diminishing culture of reading, what we immediately need is to inculcate the love for books in our children. Besides, an extended network of public libraries coupled with readers clubs can rejuvenate this habit.

Moreover, a media campaign can also play a vital role in rescuing this shredding culture. The importance of reading needs to be stressed and restored among children and adults alike. They should be told that spending time on something worth is never wasted and what’s more worth than reading a book. Weaving the digital way of education with the old style of studying may go a long way in reviving the age-old learning tradition. Reading habits should never die.

(The author is a Retired Principal and an Educational Columnist)


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