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The Real Food for the Brain
Reading is a powerful activity that can alter the malleable brain. However, a question is raised on whether all types of readings have the same positive cognitive effect on human beings. As technology has developed, web reading has become the new popular and generalized kind of reading. Today, web reading is not only popular among the young aged population but also the old aged population and the number of people who read conventional books is decreasing. Online reading and printed reading surely have their own benefits but the type of reading that definitely has a positive neurologic effect is proven to be the traditional printed reading according to the book, Challenging the Whole Child. On the other hand, the specific neurologic effect online reading has on the brain is yet to be discovered through serious of researches. However, from the apparent negative aspects of online reading, such as too much sources of distraction, researchers have surmised that there must be some sort of negative effect online reading has on the brain (“Carr”). From the apparent negative effects of the online reading and the proven positive effects of the traditional novel reading on the human brain, a comparison can be made. Conventional books are the better type of reading because they aid in the positive alternations of the human brain.
Readings such as novels that allow readers to become fully absorbed into the readings are proven to have positive influential effect on the brain. The article “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” states that students who read novels more frequently than those who do not, showed patterns of higher academic performances in schools. Also, according to the article “Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’”, novel reading can enhance the brain’s connectivity and alter the neurons in the similar way as how the muscle memory functions. In the process of novel reading, if the reader is concentrated enough to the reading, the neurons of left temporal cortex and the primary sensory motor regions of the brains are stimulated and thus tricks the mind to think that it is physically doing the things that it is not actually doing. Novel readers are able to feel, see and hear what the protagonist of the novel is doing through this neurological stimulation process. These neurological alternations do not just happen for a moment and vanish a second later but actually lasts for about five days after the completion of the novel, proving that the cognitive changes were not just immediate but influential. Novel reading has the power to stimulate and influence the brain for duration of time.
The grammatical error and the various argots present in online readings is another reason conventional reading is better than online reading. I speculate that these grammatical errors, if encountered often especially by children, have the likeliness of impeding the proper English language learning of children. According to the scholarly article “Special Issue: Can Literacy Change Brain Anatomy?”, a study in 1976 conducted by Castro Caldas and colleagues proves that learning to read at young age affects the development into the adult brain. Castro proclaims that there are two kinds of effects of learning to read at an early age. First there is the diffuse effect. [The] diffuse effect aids in increase of “abstract thinking and development of parallel information processing” (“Ostrosky‐Solís”). Then there is the focal effect. [The] focal effect affects the part in the brain that’s “related to the learning of specific skills that is involved with the mastery of reading and writing” (“Ostrosky‐Solís”). Both effects are important for the development of children’s brains. However, if children read online readings that are either intentionally or unintentionally full of errors, they may have trouble gaining the positive influence that they can get from reading. If children only read conventional reading, they would not have to risk having to face this problem. Children’s brains will be better stimulated and developed from the cognitively enriching traditional reading style.
There is more to avoid about online reading than to continually seek for it. Many people favor the accessibility and the availability of the innumerous information the internet can readily provide. However, according to the book, Challenging the Whole Child, this seemingly helpful aspect of the internet can in fact easily divert readers’ attentions (134). Not only is the internet full of information but it is also full of other distraction such as the luminous ads purposed to grab the computer users’ attentions and notifications that interrupt the users during their reading time according to the video, “What the internet is doing to our brains”. These constant distractions from the web are related to memory consolidation (“Epipheo”). Memory consolidation is a psychological term meaning the process of the information that an individual reads changing from working memory to long term memory. Once readers are carried away by the distractions online, their focus that is needed for proper memory consolidation is lost. Changing the working memory to long term memory is a difficult thing to do even without distractions and online reading is making this process much harder for readers than it already is.
Traditional printed reading enables readers to stay focused and attentive to the reading. Some people do not like reading long books because they have to go through the supposedly “unnecessary” sentences that disable them from getting to the main point of the reading immediately and these same kind of people like online readings for the fact that they are able to get to the main point of long ideas in a very short time. Printed reading usually consists of long introductions and leading sentences that some may feel tedious and unnecessary. However, I think these parts that some feel unnecessary have their reasons of existence. These sentences lead readers to delve into the reading and to be slowly guided into the main idea of the content. From this process, less confusion is aroused by the readers and the attention, which is the key point in cognitive development, is kept in the reading process from beginning to end. Learning to stay focused is a healthy practice for the brain. The fact that distractions are minimized in conventional reading is one of the greatest advantages of traditional readings.
There are more to gain from conventional reading than from online reading. Many researches exist today that prove the benefits conventional reading can provide to readers. Some of the benefits include increase in brain’s connectivity and growth in attention span. The characteristic of traditional printed reading to enable readers to stay in focus while reading, aids in the readers’ transitions of short term memory to long term memory. On the other hand, online reading has many aspects such as presence of grammatical errors and distractions, making the readers lose focus. There are many people today who are heavy users of the internet. Therefore, it is highly likely that those who encounter the online readings almost daily are unconsciously negatively affected by the online readings. I recommend that the daily users of internet cut a little bit of time off of using the internet and spare that extra time to open up a novel and start reading. If readers are seeking to get deeper understandings and insights from slow paced reading, opening up a piece of good old novel is always a good idea.
Scherer, Marge. Challenging the Whole Child Reflections on Best Practices in Learning, Teaching, and Leadership. Alexandria: ASCD, 2009. 130-135. Web. <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=lsoKUzr3GFUC&oi=fnd&pg=PA130&dq=web literacy and brain&ots=XB6uzV1sUw&sig=ElMewk5E7UA0WqyHn_11dNB6b8Y
Ostrosky‐Solís, F. International Journal of Psychology. “Special Issue: Can literacy change brain anatomy?”. 39.1 (2004): 1-4. Web. 28 Feb. 2014. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.1080/00207590344000231
Epipheo, , dir. What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains [Epipheo.TV] . Youtube, 2013. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKaWJ72x1rI>.
Rich, Motoko. “Literacy Debate: Online R U Really Reading?.” New York Times [New York] 27 July 2008, n. pag. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
Jivanda, Tomas. “Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’ .” Independent 28 12 2013, n. pag. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/brain-function-boosted-for-days-after-reading-a-novel-9028302.html>.
Carr, Nicholas. “Author Nicholas Carr: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains.” Wired. 24 005 2010: 1. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/05/ff_nicholas_carr/>.