By: Stephanie Gardella and Brandon Strickland
“By contrast, deep reading requires human beings to call upon and develop attentional skills, to be thoughtful and fully aware. It teaches humans to be thankful for, and to celebrate, their full capabilities. It makes people, in other words, feel good about being fully human.” – Robert Waxler and Dr. Maureen Hall
The digital age has drastically transformed the way we think, feel and communicate. No longer are the once cherished stories of such great authors as Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe evoking strong feelings and deep thought that they once did. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are replacing them and consume a majority of some people’s day. Sitting by the fire for hours reading a novel is a past time that is unlikely to be a part of the digital generations’ lives. The gravitational pull by technology is too strong for most. People may be reading more than ever on these social networks, but it is on a superficial level.
In Changing Lives Through Reading and Writing by Robert Waxler and Dr. Maureen Hall they argue that reading on these social network sites “does not require full thinking, full awareness, or full presence.” When it comes to reading, “quantity over quality,” certainly appears to be the maxim for the digital generation. In a time where people are more concerned with what someone is writing on their social network page, deep reading is definitely something that should be emphasized in the classroom. Sven Birkerts coined the term “deep reading” and defines it as, “the slow and meditative possession of a book.”
Although, students may claim they are doing some sort of reading while following Facebook or Twitter, they are not “deep reading.” Reading hundreds of posts about friends and families play-by-play of their mundane daily activities doesn’t exactly conjure about the same type of emotional reactions and deep thinking one would get from reading a novel such as Ernest Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms.” It is the constant need to be connected to others through an electronic medium that prevents people from losing themselves in a novel instead.
This is why deep reading is such a great addition to anyone’s life. Deep reading, being in their own world when they read a piece of great literature, can help people to form a reconnection with individuals on a different level that they could find on their computer. When someone participates in deep reading one could say they are immersing themselves in a counter-culture. They are separate from what they would normally be interacting with in society and their classrooms, work places, and personal life.
A counter-culture is characterized as a culture with values and ideals that run counter to those of an established society or alternative culture. This counter-culture is where they can find their inner self. When individuals, specifically students, are involved in deep reading they are put into a counter-culture that improves them as thinkers and learners.
Deep reading, according to Robert Waxler and Maureen Hall, “holds possibilities for helping people make meaning and journey towards full understanding of self” as well as helping them to connect to their text. Once they have a connection to their narrative they can begin to connect it with their lives on a personal and emotional level. Then they are able to connect better with others.
When students are in an environment where deep reading is utilized, they are able to get more out of the classroom. Furthermore, the counterculture they participate in when they practice deep reading can go beyond the classroom and their class work. It can help them improve as individuals, improving their life and their relationships with others. As a future educator I feel like reading of any kind is an important part of every student’s education, but especially the act of deep reading. We’re not only trying to help them be better learners but better individuals and better human beings.
Stephanie Gardella has a BA in English from Rhode Island College and is currently enrolled in the Post Bac Licensure Program at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to gain certification in teaching English at the secondary level. She begins her student teaching in the Spring. She enjoys baking, singing, and spending time with friends and loved ones. She can be reached by email here.
Brandon Strickland is applying to the MAT-I Program at UMass Dartmouth with a concentration in middle school science. He currently has a preliminary license in general science 5-8 and works at the Stone Therapeutic Day Middle School as a permanent substitute. He can be reached by email here.