The Case for Slow Reading

The Case for Slow Reading

This is a guest post from my friend Erin. In it, she shares something I’ve practiced long before any other slow living experiment. Before, I thought I would write a post explaining why I’m not a fan of listening to books/podcasts on 1.5x or 2x speed, but Erin did it for me! Enjoy!

When reading Cait’s many thoughts on living slowly and mindfully, it got me thinking about reading slowly, and how I’ve been taking more time to read through both books and articles without even realizing it. And a lot of it is due to the arrival of my son.

I first discovered Goodreads in 2011 and found myself in heaven. Finally, a solid way to track all of the books I’ve read, organize them into different categories, and find and bookmark books I wanted to read. And then, I saw the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

You challenge yourself to read a certain number of books by the end of the year, and it keeps track of your progress, letting you know if you’re behind or ahead of schedule.

In 2016, I read more than was necessary to complete the challenge. I was pregnant for most of the year and found myself consuming books even more readily than usual. I went through the entire Harry Potter series, a number of memoirs, and countless other gems. Sometimes I read aloud to the baby—sometimes kids books, sometimes not. But I was always reading. I finished up The Chemist while in early labor.

As soon as 2017 hit, and the baby was born on January 8th, I found my time for reading decreased, but more importantly, I began taking the time to really enjoy books when I did read.

Slowing Down for Long-Term Books and Audiobooks

Once the baby was here if I had a moment to myself to read, I wanted to savor it. I also found myself picking up what I like to call “book-in-between-books.”

The Case for Slow ReadingBooks like What to Expect the First Year (by the same author as What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child are not books that you devour as quickly as you can to move onto the next book; they’re not typically read cover to cover. They’re intended to follow the life of the child, and you read along as the kid gets older. These are the type of books you return to again and again to look things up or reread a passage.

Initially, I was annoyed that I’d read a good portion of (but not yet finished) a couple of these book-in-between-books but I wasn’t able to close them out yet on Goodreads. But then I realized these books aren’t items to be crossed off a list. The point isn’t to read as fast as you can so you can put the book out of sight, out of mind, to move onto the next read. They’re meant to be relished over time.

And frankly, they’re intended to learn from too. They’re non-fiction, informative books that are teaching me about how to be a better mom. I don’t want to fly through them just to say I’ve read them.

Similarly, I’ve gotten into audiobooks in recent years, and I’ve found that sometimes I have to go back and listen to a passage or chapter again to better understand what I’m “reading.” It can take me awhile to get through these.

But that’s okay. I’m not going to turn up the speed and listen to them as fast as I can so I can read more and more and more and more. If I did that I’d barely be able to enjoy or even process the books, so what would be the point? Could I even really say I’d read the book, at that juncture?

Reading Slower at Work

I’m a writer/editor at a marketing company. I got the job in early 2016, right as I found out I was pregnant (yes, it was awkward timing for me). In the beginning, I tried to pump out articles as quickly as I could. I wanted to demonstrate that they could rely on me to get pieces done fast.

But you know what happens if you rush through an article? You have more edits. Things get missed. You forget to check the spelling of a name, you miss pertinent information in a press release, you’re so busy getting the words down you forget who your demographic even is.

At some point, my editor said something to me along the lines of:

“It’s okay to slow down and take a little more time. We’d rather it get done correctly than quickly.”

And again, this is when I was pregnant, which for some reason put me in go-go-go mode as far as reading—and writing—went. So I started to make myself slow down.

One way I force myself to do this is when reading articles as research for a piece sometimes, I actually retype everything I’m reading as I’m reading it. I could just whiz through reading an article, or, I could take the time to type it out, so I have to carefully think out each word, each sentence, each paragraph. This really helps me to better take in the information and not miss something important.

Taking Time to Read with the Kid

I’ll admit, sometimes I’m ready for him to go to bed, so I can get on with my evening. I’m occasionally tempted to race through Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site so I can get him in his crib and I can go and do yoga/watch my soap opera/read my own book.

But I can’t do that. He deserves to take the time to enjoy books, too.

Before I had a kid, when I was babysitting or watching other people’s kids, I would hate how we’d have to pause several times when reading a book. I’d say something like, “And then the bunny hopped across the lawn,” and the kid would interrupt me with, “Bunny!!” while enthusiastically banging his or her hands on the book.

I’d respond with, “…yes, bunny. As I was saying…” I just wanted to read through the story. But little kids don’t read that way. They need to stop and point things out and pull tabs on pop up books.

The Case for Slow ReadingWith my kid, he’s not yet a year old, so he’s not quite talking (other than “Dadadadada”), but from what I’ve read in What to Expect the First Year, during this time period you need to be the one to stop during the story. You must be the one to point out what’s going on in the book, before he can do this himself.

“Look at the little girl eating blueberries. Blueberries are yummy and sweet.” Or, “That’s a cow. Cows go ‘moo.'” Goodnight Moon is particularly great for this, as it has quite a few objects in the book that are excellent for examining: mittens, kittens, a mouse, a brush, a bowl.

Kids need to read slower. There must be interruptions, discussions, the pointing out of various things. Time to take a couple of moments to digest what we’re reading. We could all probably benefit from taking a chapter out of their book.

Erin Nudi is a writer/editor for a marketing company in Glens Falls, New York, just south of the beautiful Adirondack Region. She’s also an aspiring novelist and has her own small blog on the side,

  • Oh, I love this!

    I have found myself a victim of the GoodReads reading challenge a time or two and try to speed through digital library loans – sometimes two at a time! But this reminded me that I need to slow down and savor those books and the time I take to read them.

  • Hi Erin,

    Great post.

    I use the same trick of writing down/summarizing, highlighting the key points I just read on each page.

    And I do all of that inside the book. The messier the book gets, the better I feel 😀. Reason why I don’t borrow books, I buy my own. One of the few areas where my frugality is pushed aside 😊.

  • Bravo! Excellent blog post. I really like that you stick tightly to your topic and don’t allow yourself to wonder. So allow me to do so for a moment :). Its not just reading, we need to slow down and do everything more deliberately. I’m finding that while everything is shiny and calling for your attention, adding that last thing to your day brings you less and less joy, fulfillment, growth, etc. etc. So lets all read slower, think slower, and pause to smell the flowers and gaze at the night sky.

  • Great post!

    This works out well for me, too, because I am a literally slow reader. I’ve loved reading and excelled at it in school since I was a child, but I’m just not fast at it. I’m always amazed at people who can scan a page of text in a few seconds and somehow absorb it all.

    I get my books from the library so unfortunately I do have to read on a bit of a deadline :-). And I mostly read fiction – I’m afraid if I take too long to read it, I’ll forget what happened! But otherwise I love the idea of savoring a book and drawing out the experience!

    BTW I have failed at my (admittedly ambitious) Goodreads yearly challenge for the past 4 years. :-)

  • My husband and I have started doing that with out viewing, too. We pause whatever program we’re watching and talk about what we think about what we are seeing. We like “predicting” what we think will happen.

  • Oh my goodness, this post resonated with me so much. I’ve always been a slow reader (not an intentional slow read. I literally just read slowly lol) but have had that desire to churn through as many books as I can. I often find myself unable to recall even major plot lines of books I devoured because I was trying to read as fast as I could versus really taking in the story or information. I have a toddler who loves books and pointing to the pictures, but again, I think I rush him sometimes too. You’ve inspired me to not think of reading as a race to see who can read those most books, but for what they are: entertainment and information. Here’s to slow reading!

  • As usual Erin, great article. Not sure I could do audiobooks myself. Too many interruptions. I can do paperbacks and Nook. I’m beginning to enjoy Nook reading better than carrying a book around. Easier, sometimes lighter and no one knows what you’re reading.

  • Wonderful reminder here! I found myself *finally* getting back to fiction this year after a many-year hiatus wherein I focused almost exclusively on business and personal improvement books. I’d fly through them, presuming that somehow I’d absorb all those gems of information magically into my being without taking time to pause and reflect.

    I’m taking a year off work (but still working on personal projects), and it’s meant time to get back to reading just for the joy of reading – something I hadn’t realized how much I missed. Thanks for the timely reminder to keep me on track as I dive into the second book in the Game of Thrones series :)

  • I love listening to audiobooks at 1.5 speed, simply because my mind wanders when it’s at normal speed. I usually only listen to novels or lighter non-fiction, since listening to more hefty non-fiction content means either I sacrifice absorbing the content because I’m listening too fast, or I sacrifice hearing everything, because I’m distracted from listening too slow. So I find that balance!

  • So many points in this article hit home for me. I love to read a book slowly, one chapter at time, and really let it sink in. Some books are quick reads; some books lean towards meandering. It’s always the slower reads which stick with me later, the ones I think about while I’m driving or remember just before I fall asleep. And regarding work, as a writer and editor, I couldn’t agree more: writing well takes time. Slowing down allows ideas to form in a more fluid, creative and logical way. My first draft or edit is never quit as good when I rush it. Technically, it may be error-free, but the feel of it is sterile. Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

  • Great article, Erin. Thank you so much for sharing. I would like to add that reading the classics for me requires slow reading. Try reading Les Miserables unabridged quickly…no doing. I am enjoying the process and learning how to read slow and savor the text. I also feel a broadening of my thought process as I read slowly. Thank you again. A really wonderful article.

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