Newby: Skim-reading misses the mark in media messages

Skim-reading is incredibly simple and also seemingly detrimental to understanding and comprehending media messages. When we skim-read, we skip the purpose of a message.

Taylor Newby, Opinion Columnist

In nearing the completion of the first month of classes, an apparent dry spell has quietly blanketed campus and its courses.

Reading assignments have rapidly piled atop one another, and course loads have become large enough to crumble beneath. Writing assignments continue to be handed out, and projects are well under works.

There is great detail in all of this delivery — the textbooks, the online workbooks, articles and PDFs. And with swift attempts made out of desperation, students have begun trying to minimize their material load as much as possible by skimming through the articles, textbooks, novels, and other material they’ve been assigned — rather than taking time to sit down and read through the texts.

And honestly, it makes sense. Skim-reading is safe. It’s far easier in its simplistic method, and time is spared in what feels like an abundant amount. But a problem arises in the era of skim-reading our way through subjects.

While professors and instructors post articles and even textbooks online for their students to read through, the danger of students missing the message their material is trying to convey is growing more and more problematic.

When skimming through stories becomes a reflex, students are subject to missing the message the reading material often conveys — especially in their own lives.

Maryanne Wolf, the author of The Reading Brain in a Digital World, recently released an article she wrote for The Guardian explaining the effects of skim-reading. She found that when skimming through stories, messages, or any kind of text, it’s easy to miss the point of what the authors attempt to portray.

When skimming through stories becomes a reflex, students are subject to missing the message the reading material often conveys — especially in their own lives.

And this research offered an even more honest way of approaching the raw yet real problem of what happens when people skim through the stories that are meant to shape them. Without slowing down and studying the words they interact with, or the sentences that are strung out before them, they are inept in the ways they understand the material.

Wolf dives into the subject of skim-reading by contending that the less time people spend on material, the less likely they are to offer a deeper understanding — one that will take root and last with meaning rather than feebly dwindle away hours after they set down the book or close the tab.

When people don’t give their brains the time it needs to properly process and portray the content they consume, or even develop a comprehensive thought regarding what it is that they read, they miss out on the experience of something extraordinary.

Because the complexity of consuming is a critical thing, and people are able to make sure they are determined in deliberating and decision-making when it comes to diving into materials that are offering meaning in their many messages.

Whether that means slowing down or tacking on another 30 minutes to reading time, it’s important to stop skimming and start sifting through stories with purpose, rather than pushing them aside. Because in doing so, people will stop missing the message — and instead, start making something of it.