2 minutes reading time (416 words)

Is Online Skimming Destroying Reading Comprehension?

Most students feel that as soon as they have answered all the questions on their homework assignment, they are finished with learning that material. They often rush through and only use the resources they absolutely must use to get the work done. Most often, they go to their textbook and don’t even return to the notes they took in class. Or even worse, they find the information on the internet. They skim and scan for what they need and really do not read for understanding. My biggest concern about this approach is that the type of reading students do in their textbook or online does not ensure that they comprehend what the section was about. They simply look for an answer, write it down, and stop reading further. If their assignment asked them to read a section and answer the questions at the end, students only read what they have to read to answer the questions.

Reading online is a very different task than seriously reading a printed text. Our eyes do not track from left to right and move down the page. We do not patiently read one page and then the next. Instead our eyes jump around the page looking for key words and something of high interest. We jump from link to link and often do not even return to where we started reading in the first place. Scientists are expressing concerns about our loss of ability to read slowly and thoroughly in order to truly grasp meaning.

The ability to read critically is important. Success in school, college, and in many careers depends on it. One thing your child should be doing now to improve his reading comprehension is to go back once he has completed his homework and slowly read through the text he was assigned to read. He should stop periodically to think about what he just read. He should ask himself, “What does that mean?” “Do I understand that?” If the answer is no, then he should write his questions down to ask in class the next day. He should also consider whether the answers he wrote earlier for homework are thorough enough.

In summary, it is fine to skim and scan through a text or online source to find answers for homework, but that is just the start of the work that should be done. Once the answers are written, the reading for comprehension should begin.


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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016