Young people are spending less time reading books and more time reading online. Does online reading count as real reading? From the New York Times:
A slender, chatty blonde who wears black-framed plastic glasses, Nadia checks her e-mail and peruses myyearbook.com, a social networking site, reading messages or posting updates on her mood. She searches for music videos on YouTube and logs onto Gaia Online, a role-playing site where members fashion alternate identities as cutesy cartoon characters. But she spends most of her time on quizilla.com or fanfiction.net, reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies.
A would-be English major, 15-year-old Nadia doesn’t like to read books.
On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one authorâ€™s vision. On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends.
Young people â€œarenâ€™t as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesnâ€™t go in a line,â€ said Rand J. Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. â€œThatâ€™s a good thing because the world doesnâ€™t go in a line, and the world isnâ€™t organized into separate compartments or chapters.â€
Some traditionalists warn that digital reading is the intellectual equivalent of empty calories. . . . Zigzagging through a cornucopia of words, pictures, video and sounds, they say, distracts more than strengthens readers.
Nationally, teens’ reading scores are flat or declining as fewer youths say they read for fun. But some say reading tests don’t measure the “digital literacy” skills young people are developing online.
On traditional reading tests, young people who read novels outscore other readers. The better readers may be reading novels or reading novels may create better readers — or a bit of both.
Reading and writing online beats watching television. But does it beat reading books? As the world’s most linear person, I find it hard to believe that “digital literacy,” whatever that is, is just as good as plain old-fashioned literacy.