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.”
Books 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.
With 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, ErinNudi.com.