On Glasses, Goodreads, and Bi-literate Brains

I got some very exciting news this week. I need glasses! Not round the clock, just for reading and computer usage. That might not seem like exciting news, but I have always wanted glasses and felt like they complement my personality because I am a librarian grandma at heart. This is a pretty new development and I discovered it because I’ve been having headaches almost daily since November and after several rounds of antibiotics for sinus infections proved unsuccessful, I decided to explore other potential causes, including eye strain. Like many others, I am usually reading things all day. If you haven’t recently – take a quick toll of how many hours a day you read. I hadn’t really thought about it until the doctor asked me and I realized I am essentially reading text (on my phone, on my computer, on my students’ work, on book pages) unless I am sleeping. There are very few activities I do that do not involve reading – and usually reading on an artificially lit screen. My eye test concluded that I am slightly far-sighted and the extra work my eyes are doing to focus on all of this close up text might be the cause (or at least a contributing factor) of my headaches.

I had noticed that my eyes seemed to tire quickly and that I couldn’t focus. My eyes felt like they were jumping all over the page and many times I had to resort to tracing the lines with my finger or a bookmark like I instruct my students to when they need an extra hand (or finger) to help them focus. Although, this focus problem might be a problem with my brain and not my farsightedness. This article presents some interesting thoughts on “linear reading and digital distractions”:

Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC’s New Tech City, recalls a conversation with the Washington Post’s Mike Rosenwald, who’s researched the effects of reading on a screen. “He found, like I did, that when he sat down to read a book his brain was jumping around on the page. He was skimming and he couldn’t just settle down. He was treating a book like he was treating his Twitter feed,” she says.

Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards “non-linear” reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.

“They call it a ‘bi-literate’ brain,” Zoromodi says. “The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.”

So what’s deep reading? It’s the concentrated kind we do when we want to “immerse ourselves in a novel or read a mortgage document,” Zoromodi says. And that uses the kind of long-established linear reading you don’t typically do on a computer. “Dense text that we really want to understand requires deep reading, and on the internet we don’t do that.”

Well, I do not intend on losing the deep reading part of my brain. I insisted on reading Kindle books for a while because I wanted to save money, but after buying a few hardcovers for my many book clubs, I fell in love again and found that I was better able to focus on each line as I read. I still use my Kindle for traveling and books that probably won’t require annotations, but nothing compares to holding a physical book. There is also something very intimate about scribbling in the margins – taking notes on where you are, what you’re thinking, what lines really make you feel something.

And I want to wear my glasses. I get them on Friday and I could not be more excited (mostly at the prospect that my headaches could go away, but also because I can’t wait to wear them and finally feel my inner bookworm emerge). This development is just in time because my goal for 2016 is to read 53 books (a book a week and another one for good measure). So far I am on track with 17 under my belt. Someone asked me the other day why I hadn’t written anything in a while and the answer is because I have been too busy working and reading (and when I am not doing either of those things, I probably have a headache). This is my year (thus far) in books:


Nonfiction 1 Nonfiction 2

Adult Fiction

Adult Fiction

YA/Middle Grade Fiction

YA Fiction 1 YA Fiction 2


     Currently Reading  Currently Reading

Is anyone else as into Goodreads as I am? We are going to try rolling it out with our students to get them more excited about reading, because one of the first things I like to do when I finish a book is update it on Goodreads and spend the next 60 seconds feeling accomplished. Plus when you’ve finished a book, it recommends similar books to you so you can forever avoid reading ruts. My favorite book of 2015 was a tie between Six of Crows and The History of Love and so far this year I think my favorite book is Me Before You (runner up: My Life on the Road and The Signature of All Things). Sometimes it is overwhelming to think that you could spend your whole life reading and still not even break the surface of all there is to be read. Oh well. I like to think that each book takes me somewhere new and, even when I am back and the book is closed, it gives me a few more inches to stand on. That way, with this slightly higher vantage point, I can see just a little bit more of the world.

What have you read lately?

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  1. Paul Reuvers says:

    Hi Danielle, Sue and I have just read the Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. He is a great story teller, and his writing is beautiful.

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