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Book reading

cat book thumb

There was a time when a student’s ability in academics was determined by his or her love for books, the time spent in a library, and how many were on the study table or in that old cupboard students used to keep at their homes. A studious student was considered to be a book lover as well, and the practice of book reading was encouraged and appreciated. However, majorly after at the start of the last decade, there was a gigantic shift in the way knowledge was pursued and shared. Books, in the last 10 years, have found themselves stuck on that dusty shelf often as today’s student and an academic prefers to Google everything. We dive into the oceans of world wide web and in a matter of seconds get what we are looking for. We have to hardly skim through dictionaries to know the meaning and pronunciations of a word as a mere app does it for us with just a tap of a finger. In fact, more and more people are reading online each day as most of them get farther away from the hard copies as they read e-books hundreds of which can be stored on a small gadget. However, is this practice impacting the reading habits? Are we really reading an e-book as seriously as we would if we had it hard copy with us. Research proves otherwise. Anne Mangen of the University of Stavanger, Norway is Chair and one of the lead researchers, and has many years of experience studying the cognitive implications of new media, investigating the haptics of reading on screen and how this contributes to comprehension, recall and the ‘immersive’ reading experience. In a 2008 study of fiction reading online, Mangen suggested: “One main effect of the intangibility of the digital text is that of making us read in a shallower, less focused way. As shown by numerous studies of screen reading, we tend to scan text on screen. Such a reading mode is highly vulnerable to distractions, particularly when these distractions are as easily available as a click with the mouse. These hardwired dispositions also help explain why the computer, as a reading device, seems to be poorly suited for the contemplative and deeply focused reading we associate with the book. When reading a book, the text in the book as a static and fixed perceptual phenomenon simply does not provide us with options for attentional switching and for auto-stimulating our attentional response.” Mangen published the results of a trial of students in early 2013 that found that those who read texts on computers performed less well on a comprehension test than those who had read them on paper, leading her to speculate: “The ease with which you can find out the beginning, end and everything in-between and the constant connection to your path, your progress in the text, might be some way of making it less taxing cognitively, so you have more free capacity for comprehension.” In a trial the following year, Mangen gave 50 readers a short story, half on a Kindle and half in paperback form, before testing subjects on various aspects of the story. Researchers predicted differences in levels of immersion and emotional responses based on an earlier study comparing an upsetting short story read on paper and on iPad, in which paper readers reported higher measures related to empathy, transportation, immersion and narrative coherence. Considering the research, parents and teachers in Kashmir must ensure that students are encouraged to read more books than skim through texts on electronic devices. Reading culture needs to be revived, come what may.