Monday, September 22, 2014

In Praise of Slow Reading

In our efforts to absorb information as quickly as it comes at us, we tend to skim, skip, glance, and peruse articles and books rather than sit and read them. All our gadgets, facebook pages, news feeds and twitter feeds do is provide snippets of information, tantalizing bits of news and current events. In the end, we know a little bit about everything. "Wait" you say, "that's what librarians do, they know a little about everything. What's so bad about all the skimming and quick reads?" Well, I must confess I too dip and skim, but that's not reading, it's not absorbing information, facts, and provides no time for wrestling with the essence of an article. You must slow down and read deeply.

There are two terms used somewhat interchangeably "Slow Reading" and "Deep Reading". They refer to the concept of taking your time, reading and thinking about what is in front of you. Slow and deep reading provides time to absorb and analyze the information, to hear the words within your head and contemplate upon their meanings. Slow reading means ruminating, fixating, and often re-reading again and again until you 'get it' and actually learn what you are studying. Here's a nice definition of the deep reading Scroll below the definition for some quotes in context.

Jeanne Whalen's article "Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress: At Least 30 Minutes of Uninterrupted Reading With a Book or E-Book Helps." Wall Street Journal  (Sept 16, 2014): promotes reading without distraction for long periods of time. There are some tests and quizzes to determine the speed at which you read and absorb information. Try them out. See how well you do. 

In terms of school, you need to read in uninterrupted chunks of time, in a non-distracting place. Not in front of the TV or computer screen, unless of course you are reading on that screen. Read without the distraction of facebook, e-mail, and phone. Take your time. Think about the concepts you are learning, test the ideas and techniques against what you already know, apply the techniques to the exercises and subjects you are studying. 

Slow and deep reading is important for absorbing what you read and for enhancing your long term memory. Try it and let me know what you think.


Here are some other articles that talk about deep or slow reading:

Coleman, John. "For Those Who Want to Lead, Read"
Harvard Business Review (Aug 15, 2012): 

"Defining "Deep Reading" and "Text-Dependent Questions" Turn On Your Brain blog (March 29, 2012): This article has a nice video about the subject.

Carr, Nicholas. "The Death of Deep Reading." BigThink  (April 20, 2013):

"Why Johnny Can't "Deep" Read." NPR (April 21, 2010)

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