I sit down in a comfortable chair, book in one hand cup of coffee in the other, intent on assiduously reading it cover to cover, when after ten minutes I find my hand wandering subconsciously toward my mobile phone. Suddenly I am fixated, locked in a tractor beam of artificial glow, index finger flitting in the habitual motion of infinite scrolling.
Until recently this was a Ground Hog Day like occurrence, my ability to concentrate so greatly diminished that I couldn’t make it through ten minutes of reading without getting distracted. Because of this, last year I read a grand total of four books.
Growing up I can remember sitting with my Mum squished between my Sister and I as she read to us the works of Lewis Carroll, C.S Lewis and Enid Blyton. Later we joined in the narration ourselves, and although my sister was the more pro-active reader between us I loved the way the pages transported you to some fantastical realm where childish wonder was free to roam unadulterated. However the older I became the less I read. Having grown up in the boom of the gaming industry my source of entertainment quickly migrated from books to my newly acquired PlayStation 2, and it would be some years before I would find my head back among the pages of Through the Looking Glass.
So was technology to blame for my distracted mind? Quite possibly. Reports show that the amount of time children spend in front of a digital screen has nearly doubled since 1995, quite probably attributed to the growing access to mobile devices, with 66% of 8-12 year olds now owning a smart phone. With this brings a whole host of adverse effects including poor focus, irritability and even inhibiting children’s ability to recognise emotions. It also seems that parents are reading less to their children than ever, particularly Fathers who are 50% less likely to read to their 0-11 month year old than Mothers.
The problems don’t end there however; as we move into our formative teenage years where novels can etch a lasting impression – The feelings of pain, outrage and loss after my first reading of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ are still palpable – it appears that we are giving up serious reading altogether. Our brains have become accustomed to snippets of information dispensed like short lived drugs from numerous digital stores, desensitising our brain’s reward system and making it increasingly difficult to concentrate. Government cuts to schools and public services see library doors closing and school classrooms overpopulated, making it more difficult than ever for teachers to inspire young people to read for pleasure.
To combat this we need to lead by example; there is a strong correlation between positive parental encouragement and the frequency a child reads. We need to dispense with the notion that we don’t have time to read and make time for it. It’s likely you will reap the benefits from this as much as they will.
You may have read in my last post that I’m currently in the midst of a somewhat drastic change in my existential outlook, including focusing more on my mental and physical well-being. After reading about the adverse effects that too much screen time can have on sleep in adults, I decided to drastically decrease the amount of time I spent looking at my digital devices and replace it with reading. The psychological improvement thus far appears to be significant (albeit slightly anecdotal), and best of all my love for books is flourishing again, taking me back to that familiar realm of wonder and freedom I knew as a child.
Books read in 2017: 4
Books read in 2018: 12 (and counting)
Come and find me on Goodreads to see what I’m currently reading!
Also check out the Reading Agency, a charity focused on inspiring people of all ages to read for pleasure and empowerment: