“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Groucho Marx
In US the average SAT reading score is decreasing steadily. From 505 in 2001 to 495 in 2015. Whereas Raven’s Test scores, which measure visual IQ, are increasing steadily, while the overall IQ growth has slowed down. Summary, people are reading less and less.
Blame it on social media, media, stressed life, entertainment options or whatever, reading as a habit is dying. Consider these statistics drawn from different research studies. 8 secs is the average attention span of an adult before he or she gets distracted from reading. 20% is what people retain after they have read an article or a message. 81% of educated people skim than read online. Settling down with a good book or a magazine is not an in-thing anymore. Like fast food, people want fast information.
Welcome to the world of visuals. Not just children, we adults have switched our learning or gathering information into a visual exercise. Graphs, infographics, photos and videos are the formats we now prefer. Growth of social media is the main reason behind this change of habit. Twitter with its 140 character has limited our reading habit. With YouTube and videos what is the need to read. Growth of Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram is a sign that visual is the way ahead. It is expected that 84% of the world’s communication will be visual by 2018.
Guess the last time you opened a dictionary or an encyclopaedia to learn a meaning or knowledge about something. We just Google it! Psychologists working in the field of education have warned the negative effect of Googling information. Knowledge is about discovery. The journey to the discovery is more important than the discovery itself. With Google, the answer is quick, precise, need fulfilling which obviates the need to discovering beyond the present point of search.
When you read, you create a visual imagery of the scene being described. For example, while reading Alice in the Wonderland, you will create images of the places and people Alice encounters. You put your mind to more work, thus enriching and developing it. If you watch a video of the same, there is nothing to imagine, which robs the mind of great stimulation activity. Watch your child’s face when you read a fairy tale and when she is watching a fairy tale video on TV. The difference is the imagination and attention. Add to that the ‘special time’ you spent with your child reading to her which is invaluable.
Reading is one of the 4R’s for development at all stages of life. Writing as a habit is almost dead. Remember the letters that you wrote to your grandparents and friends? When was the last time you wrote or received a letter? Switching to visual media instead of reading is akin to giving calculator to a child to teach maths. Read more to think more visually.
To promote family planning in a slum area, an interesting hoarding was designed. Divided into two parts, it visually displayed the benefits of a small family. The small family, with two children, had all the comforts of life like TV, fridge, furniture etc. The large family was a contrast with few comforts. Message was clear, have a small family, be happy. A researcher was sent to get feedback. He stopped one man coming out from the slum and asked his opinion about the hoarding. The slum dweller replied, “look at the small family, they have everything in life, but God has given them only two children!”