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Maryanne Wolf: Skimming While Reading Changes Critical Thinking and Empathy

Maryanne Wolf, renowned scholar of literacy and the brain, joins UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies this fall…

Maryanne Wolf, renowned scholar of literacy and the brain, joins UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies this fall as a visiting professor and director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at UCLA Ed & IS. She will speak on her new book, Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World, on Thursday, Sept. 13 from 5-7 p.m. in UCLA’s Northwest Auditorium.

Wolf published a recent commentary in The Guardian titled, “Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound.” In it, she delineates the need for the development of a “bi-literate reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums.” to navigate the complex and ephemeral landscape of digital information that surrounds humans today.

“A great deal hangs on it: the ability of citizens in a vibrant democracy to try on other perspectives and discern truth; the capacity of our children and grandchildren to appreciate and create beauty; and the ability in ourselves to go beyond our present glut of information to reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society,” Wolf writes.

“As MIT scholar Sherry Turkle has written, we do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating. In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.”

Wolf posits that the “’ collateral damage” of the digital culture is not only an issue of print vs digital or that it only affects the young.

“The subtle atrophy of critical analysis and empathy affects us all. It affects our ability to navigate a constant bombardment of information,” she writes. “It incentivizes a retreat to the most familiar silos of unchecked information, which require and receive no analysis, leaving us susceptible to false information and demagoguery.”

Wolf is the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (HarperCollins), Tales of Literacy for the 21st Century: The Literary Agenda (Oxford University Press), and over 150 scientific publications. She lectures around the world, including multiple presentations on global literacy for disenfranchised children at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Wolf was the John DiBiaggio Professor of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University, and the Director of the Center for Reading and Language Development in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. She is affiliated with the Dyslexia Center in the UCSF Medical School and with Curious Learning: A Global Literacy Initiative, which she co-founded.

Professor Wolf is the recipient of multiple research and teaching honors, including the Fulbright Fellowship, the American Psychological Association Teaching Award, a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study for the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the NICHD Innovative Research Award, and the highest awards by the International Dyslexia Association and the Australian Learning Disabilities Association.

Wolf is a sought-after resource for international media, including The Verge, The Hindu, Good E Reader, Free Beacon, and The San Francisco Chronicle, as well as various NPR interviews.

Admission to the Sept. 13 event is free; however, seating is limited and registration is required to attend. Complimentary parking is available in the Sunset Village parking structure.

To RSVP or for more information, visit this link.

To read “Skim reading is the new normal” in The Guardian, visit this link.


Photo by Ron Searcey