The New York Times started an interesting column this year – “Welcome to Room for Debate,” a new commentary blog that convenes discussions with knowledgeable experts on news events and other hot topics. We hope these forums, by offering analysis and opinions from different perspectives, will give our readers context for the news.”

Recent discussions have been around topics like – “How to Improve National Math Scores” and “Why One Vote Matters in the Senate?’

I enjoyed a recent blog – “Does the Brain Like E-Books?” I am fascinated by exploring how anyone learns to read. Having taught elementary school for thirty five years and having a daughter who loves her Kindle, I was very interested in the questions they asked as well at their responses.

“Is there a difference in the way the brain takes in or absorbs information when it is presented electronically versus on paper? Does the reading experience change, from retention to comprehension, depending on the medium?”

Here are a few of the ideas offered.

1 Alan Liu, English professor – “Reading environments should not be books or libraries. They should be like the historical coffeehouses, taverns and pubs where one shifts flexibly between focused and collective reading — much like opening a newspaper and debating it in a more socially networked version of the current New York Times Room for Debate.”

2 Sandra Aamodt, author, “Welcome to Your Brain” – “As technology continues to improve, we can probably expect to see electronic reading become as useful as paper for most purposes.”

3 Maryanne Wolf, professor of child development – “After many years of research on how the human brain learns to read, I came to an unsettlingly simple conclusion: We humans were never born to read. We learn to do so by an extraordinarily ingenuous ability to rearrange our “original parts” — like language and vision, both of which have genetic programs that unfold in fairly orderly fashion within any nurturant environment. Reading isn’t like that.”

4 David Gelernter, computer scientist – “The tools (as usual) are neutral. It’s up to us to insist that onscreen reading enhance, not replace, traditional book reading. It’s up to us to remember that the medium is not the message; that the meaning and music of the words is what matters, not the glitzy vehicle they arrive in.”

5 Gloria Mark, professor of informatics – “My own research shows that people are continually distracted when working with digital information. They switch simple activities an average of every three minutes (e.g. reading email or IM) and switch projects about every 10 and a half minutes.”

Read Room for Debate at-