Do You Still Know How to Read?

Girl on Phone

Do you still know how to read?

Not just clickbait headlines.

Not just sensationalist twenty-click articles.

Not just the punchy all-caps lines in GIFs and memes.

Not just a slew of video titles in the sidebar.

Not just piecemeal Facebook arguments.

Not just cable listings and Netflix titles.

Not just one-line iPhoned emails.

Not just texts and notifications.

Do you still know how to read?

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Do you still know how to follow an argument?

Can you still sniff out a logical fallacy?

Do ad hominem’s still transgress your sense of justice?

Can you read slowly and carefully without getting antsy?

Can you still pause, and ponder, and play with new ideas in your mind, ideas brought on by a glorious sentence or a penetrating paragraph?

Do you still know how to read till the end? (Or are you already bored and headed elsewhere, even now?)

When a compound-complex sentence begins with a long relative clause, and the immediate gratification of instant clarity isn’t a gift that sentence bestows, are you still building the discipline to see it through, knowing that grasping an author’s point and engaging in meaningful dialogue and learning in the deepest ways will often require disciplined concentration over periods of time that you may find uncomfortable?

Do you still know how to read?

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Or is it all right-thumb scrolling at hyper-speed?

Is it all click-and-scan, click-and-scan, click-and-scan?

Is it all an exercise in aging backwards, back to earliest childhood, where you only cared about the visuals?

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Far more than you know depends on your moral ability to read thoughtfully, carefully, contextually, discerningly.

Planks of your worldview fall into place, or loosen, or rot, or strengthen, or splinter, with each paragraph you read.

Your reasoning powers are growing more mature, or less, in large part based on what you read, how you read it, and what you do with it.

So don’t let your literacy rot. Let it ripen.

Exercise diligent reading, exorcise lazy reading, and let our brave new world make you better, not worse.

Make sure that in the days and months and years to come—no matter what shiny new toys you have at your disposal—you still know how to read.