Do you Skim?

old books

Do you skim?

I mean, when you read, do you actually process every word through your optic faculties? Or do you take in only a few words that your eye somehow deems important?

Maybe even, for the sake of your life efficiency, do you actually process every sentence on the screen?

Yes, I did restrict my enquiry to the screen, because reading an actual book is different, right?


Recently I listened to the May 8th episode (#251) of the CBCRadio Podcast, Spark. One of the discussions focussed on the difference between digital versus print reading. Because so much of our lives include ingesting information via a digital screen, it is said that we have learned to associate any type of screen reading with a sense of time pressure, or necessity to multitask. Therefore, any time we encounter an online article or blog post, delve into an e-book or check our email, our brain shifts into skim mode. So, those of us who first learned to read on paper can switch from mode to mode depending on the task. But what of those who learned how to unlock an iPhone at the ripe old age of 2? Will the future generations have that same capacity to  discern between, or even have the opportunity to develop, both types of processing?

I sincerely hope so.

Keep the paragraphs short. That is one way to grab a reader’s attention.

How about this— keep the kids reading actual books.

Read real printed books yourself. Just to stay sharp if nothing else.

Let time slip away. Get lost in the story. Show your kids that reading from a page is normal, and good.

As Maryanne Wolf, the Cognitive Neuro-Scientist from Tufts University who was featured on Spark puts it, “Nuance requires patience.”

Let’s make sure nuance doesn’t get lost as we continue to move steadily into the digital age, which I am all for, by the way.

And if you skimmed through the one paragraph that was more than two lines long, have patience my friend. I am guilty too.


I strongly believe that reading deeply, thoughtfully, is becoming a lost art in our culture, and I think it is very important to practice, to make time. However, I also adamantly believe that audiobooks are a very important component to reading, especially for those with reading difficulties or vision impairment. See my recent post More Than Just Words.

4 thoughts on “Do you Skim?

  1. While reading this article, my eye jumped straight down to the link because it stood out. That is where I started reading. When reading novels my eye jumps all over the page, but I do always go back and read the whole thing. I don’t know if it’s habit or what.

    I’ve never read an ebook so I don’t know if I would skim it the same way or in a completely different way. I know that I don’t tend to skim digital comics because I tend to zoom in the screen so that the art is larger for me to see. This means I my eye can’t jump around the page like it would if I were reading a print comic. However, then I don’t get to see the overall flow of the panels when zoomed in, so there are pros and cons to both.

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