How The Digital Era Threatens Our Reading AbilitieS


The negative effects of our digital habits, our propensity to skim-read texts and our lack of mental focus have been widely reported. However, the real impact on our reading abilities, which extends to the impairment of crucial structures in the functioning of our brain, has consequences far greater than we might have imagined for individuals, cultures and the human species at large. Maryanne Wolf is the Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. An internationally renowned cognitive neuroscientist and dyslexia specialist, she investigates global literacy and the effects of the digital age on our ‘deep-reading’ abilities – the way we process long and complex texts. At Falling Walls, Maryanne will explain the fundamental neurological changes that result from digital-mode reading, and how these threaten the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes, including empathy and critical analysis. She will plead for the need to cultivate a ‘biliterate’ ability to be able to process the speed of the digital reading environment while simultaneously benefiting from the effects of deep reading. Maryanne will propose solutions for a future in which we can secure literacy skills that preserve some of the essential qualities of a democratic society.

Maryanne Wolf

University of California Los Angeles

Maryanne Wolf is the Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. An internationally renowned cognitive neuroscientist and dyslexia specialist, her research and writing revolve around global literacy and the effects of the digital age on our reading abilities. Maryanne’s work explores the decline of deep-reading skills in today’s society and proposes policies as well as solutions for parents and educators to improve the reading skills of children in various age groups. As member of an influential global literacy initiative, she also strives to reduce world poverty by bringing literacy to as many children as possible.

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