The Art of Reading Slowly – by Ellery Bruns – The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The Art of Reading Slowly – by Ellery Bruns – The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Personally, the “read, reAD, READ!” mantra was started in elementary school, and then rigorously enforced throughout high school. In very generalized terms, the number of books glanced over was more literally endorsed than the quality of the reading experience. The emphasis on fast-pace-reading is an unintentional effect. Even though literature is one of the few things I unabashedly love, I can see how I was negatively affected by the “read, reAD, READ!” slogan. After I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace for an hour, I am incredibly bugged that I am on page fifty-two and have not been consumed by book’s story yet. And, no, it’s not the book. The read-speedy phenomenon has kidnapped my brain and distracted it from the beauty it is to read slow and live a novel.

Once seventh grade hit, I was reading two to three hundred books a semester because I felt as if I needed to fill that silent implied quota mentioned above. Now, over eight hundred used books in sit in my bookshelves trying to recover their destroyed spines. You’d think the ability to sink into a book’s world would become easier the faster and the more books I read, but that didn’t happen, strangely enough. Instead, to read faster, I started to skim; a mortal sin when you are trying to understand a novel’s strange inner workings. If you have ever read Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov, you know there is only a fragment you will deeply grasp if you skim book with a character that knows he is fictional. So, while I vigorously rummaged through books, I lost the utter happiness and triumph I got by molding myself into the story. As I read War and Peace, I now understand how dreadful reading has become because Tolstoy’s words feel as though they are from a tuna can’s ingredients list: meaningless. I read too fast.

To enjoy written words, I need to peruse them a notch or two below my top word scanning speed. In essence, I need to take in the words of a text slower to bring back the jubilation I feel when I read and melt into a book. That is the only way I will be able to read War and Peace with unabashed joy; and again, no, it is not the book’s plot. Reading slowly–with a purpose– is an art form only mastered once you read at a snail’s pace to transmogrify yourself into the novel’s narrator. That is the art of reading slowly.

Ellery serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

27 Comments

Filed under Ellery Bruns, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

27 responses to “The Art of Reading Slowly – by Ellery Bruns – The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. Thank you for this beautiful piece Ellery! I am sure anyone who has ever been a serious reader can relate to your words. I feel I have gone through a very similar experience. I am not sure at what point in my life I started looking at the page numbers in a book and caring how long it took me to read. It really does take away from the experience and infuriates me even as I do it. Not only does it make reading harder, but I think it actually makes me slower (working against the reason why I do it). I remember being so engrossed in books that I would be surprised and a little disappointed when I got to the end. It seems like the world is now obsessed with doing things faster and more efficiently. It is important to for us to know that there are somethings that just should not be done in such a way; otherwise they will lose their value and appeal.

  2. Grace Young

    This was a cool article to read because it isn’t like the other ones I had read before on NSR. I find myself being able to closely relate to what you’re saying. I think that this just shows how civilizations are static and dynamic in the way that it is so easily relatable to my own culture, but it is different for me. I always find myself skimming through books, but unlike you I didn’t try to read the most that I could in high school. I didn’t like the idea of being forced to read books that should be enjoyable. I think this has caused problems for me in the long run because I find myself skimming through textbooks and not understanding what I’m saying. It would be interesting to look at how this idea is in civilizations around the world. I think it would also be interesting to see how this has changed over the years or if it has stayed the same.

  3. Matthew Breeze

    I appreciate that you took the time to write this deeply personal article. I too often find myself reading too fast. With classes, news, and the million other things to follow reading, especially reading for pleasure where I wont be tested, becomes faster and faster. One of the most enjoyable feelings is being able to become engrossed in a good book, slowly taking in all its details and intricacies. Your article has encouraged me to take some more time when reading. I know that will be hard this time of the semester, but I definitely forget to take my time when reading, so thank you for that.

  4. Because of the subject and nature of this article, I read and re-read slowly and more slowly. It is interesting the meanings one finds when carefully considering each word on a page. Why did the author choose this word, and not another? Language simply fascinates me. Focusing on content and quality of reading over quantity is extremely important, but not a valued or sought-after practice in society. How much is lost when not deliberately considering each word’s significance? This slowing-down, this focus on mindfulness, this performing deliberately can be applied to more than reading as well! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Kathleen Reicher

    Thanks for sharing, Ellery. You are right that quantity over quality was instilled in us at a young age. I even remember being tested on how fast I could read a short story in elementary school. We were also encouraged to read as many books as we could, and the child who read the most books won a prize. Yes, it got us to read books, which is good, but were we really doing quality reading? Slow and steady really does win the race. The slower we read, the more we absorb, and the more we get out of the book.

  6. Der Yang

    Hello Ellery,
    Thank you for reminding us how important it is for us, especially as students and children to slow down and take things in a fair manner. In this generation, we are so used to the fast life that we only want to start and finish a task without gaining any real meaning. With the advancements of technology, it has even made it easier to get to the point of a novel without reading too much. Sometimes this is beneficial. Yet, these acts strips its whole purpose of retrieving new knowledge and insight. I can attest to it myself. With the semester ending, I find myself using the internet more and more to find interpretations and summaries rather than reading the book myself. This is not good. All in all, thank you for sharing!

  7. Caroline Grube

    This was a very interesting article! I have loved to read ever since I could talk. Before I could read for myself, I have been told that I would pile as many books as my little 18 month old arms could carry and bring them to my dad for us to read the second he got home from work. What he often didn’t know was that my mom had read me almost those same books earlier that day. Reading has been a HUGE passion of mine my whole life. However, I have always been a naturally fast reader. I don’t skim, but I do read very fast. I agree that the push in schools to read the most books in a year or a month is a little misguided and can end up hurting some children and their desire to read, but I loved those competitions as an elementary student, simply because I was good at them. But, I did not need the incentives that those competitions offered to want to read. I often got in trouble for reading during class or at a time where we were supposed to be doing something else. I agree that reading fast is not something that should be valued, but rather the fact that reading is occurring.

  8. Kalahan Larson

    Literature has always been one of my favorite subjects. I have loved reading books since I was a little girl and still love to read when I have the time. Being a future teacher, I am extremely excited to bring in all of my favorite books and hand down my love for reading to my students. But as a teacher, I want my students to actually understand what they are reading and take the tine to enjoy the meaning behind the stories. This is what students now days are missing because they have always been pushed to read a lot, not to dig further into the story.

  9. This kind of fast paced reading is part of every student undergoing school. We have so much to get done we often take the most efficient way of completing each assignment. Every younger student is meant to read so much so we develop better reading skills, but I certainly see the issue with reading too fast. Noone will actually develop the proper skills that can be attained by reading often. I will admit that I have not read hundreds of books yet, but everyone can relate to the points made in this article. We live in such fast paced society we do not always slow down to see the beauty and lessons to be seen.

  10. Andrew Bailey

    Ellery, I highly enjoyed your article, and I think that reading slowly is a very good tool that every reader should be able to use. Not only does it create a deeper meaning for the text, it allows the reader to contemplate each word on the page and ponder why the author chose to use each specific word. Not only should we slow down while reading, we should slow down the daily activities in our own lives. Of course this cannot be done in everything (such as racing cross country or Nascar), but eating slowly, walking slowly, analyzing data slowly, etc. This is something we talked about in Political Science first semester with Professor Liang. There was so much data being thrown around by the media during the election, that the pace they were covering it was much too fast. By slowing down, we were able to critically look at the data and draw more informed conclusions as to the outcome of the election.

  11. Nouqouja Yang

    Hello Ellery,
    I really enjoyed reading this because I totally agree and could relate to what you said. During my childhood days, I really loved reading also. Discovering new stories with all the colorful pictures and creativity. I think everyone kind of goes through this small phase of trying to catch up on reading instead of actually fully indulging in a book and imagining it happening. I have never really thought about why I didn’t like reading and how we need to learn to read faster or just skim. This was really interesting and it makes sense. During high school, there was this time where I was able to choose my own book to read. I didn’t really realize how I was more into it and I really imagined it like a movie in my head. I guess this kind of connects to your post on how we forget to enjoy a book…maybe because we are forced to read and meet a deadline. Anyways, really interesting post! I enjoyed it!!!

  12. Dylan Brovick

    As a kid i can remember being told that I was a slow reader, and always thought that it was a bad thing. One day though the teacher was going around and asking kids to read a page for him and the kid next to me read the page super quickly. Afterward the teacher asked what he had just read about and the kid could not tell him unless he re read over parts of the page and then the teacher told him he needed to begin to read slower and take in what the page is about. I then realized that being a slow reader wasn’t a bad thing and that it actually was just the pace i needed to go at in order to understand what i was reading. I enjoyed reading this article because it reminded me of this situation and how I have always been fascinated that can read a whole book very quickly. Also reading is something that I also enjoy to do but wish i had more time for but now I know that i should read to take in what is being said and not just skim over the book to get on to the next one.

  13. Megan Bingham

    wow this made me feel a lot better about my own reading skills. Thank You. I have always hated to eat because I have to read so very slowly in order to understand anything. I read each and every word. I always feel like my teachers in high school would never give me enough time to get my certain number of pages done because I read so slowly. Now I understand that I am actually a good reader because I take time to understand each sentence and that this is a skill. Thank You!

  14. Alexa Lee

    As a fellow book lover, English major, and human being, I have an immeasurable amount of appreciation for this article. I, too, was that kid that could fly through a book, and I was esteemed for it by my teachers, and my family. When I checked out books from our local library, they would tease me and tell me not to put my bike away since I would be ready to return it that night. I would beam with pride and make an effort to read the book so I could impress them, but I never really read it. I think it’s great to hear that you have come to this revelation. Books are a beautiful thing, and the images that writers can create are something that people need to take their time with, not always rush through. It took me a while to realize that, almost my full high school career, but eventually I learned that understanding a book’s truth is more important that flying through it, and I am glad you have too!

  15. Joel Scheuerlein

    I have to admit, I only ever read books if it was needed for class. It was because of this I would read as fast as possible just so I could finish my homework quicker. I do agree with you that the reading may not have been the best quality, but hey, at least I read right? I do think that school has lead to the thinking of a faster pace reading as to accomplish more, and I also agree that this makes it more difficult to comprehend what is going on. This was very well written, and I do agree with everything you say, great job.

  16. Emily Bugni

    I too was bashed with the “read, reAD, READ!” slogan. When I was younger I never enjoyed reading. I always felt that I was forced to do it by my family and teachers. Being the stubborn person I am, I would purposely not read to prove to them that I did not need to practice reading. However, high school and college proved me wrong. The faster you are at reading, the more you can get accomplished. I have learned to skim and read fast through the past couple years. It does help but sometimes I regret acquiring this skill. It becomes a habit and soon enough, that is all you ever do. You never get the chance to enjoy the book. This is, what I believe, is a drawback for many students. It should not be about how fast you can read, but on how well you live in the story and retain the information present.

  17. I loved this! I am so sad that we were so forced to read quickly as if it were something to not just relish our time to do the relaxing hobby. I think that spoiled it for some of us. I have since learn though to take my time with leisurely reading and to enjoy the books. School reading is a bit different, since skimming makes that much easier! Thanks for sharing, cheers!

  18. Sheila Iteghete

    It is surely an art to read slowly, but I also think it can be an art to read a few lines fast and get what the author is trying to portray. Would that be the fault of the author’s lack of creativity or is this just for the sake of not wanting to read every single line. I would say that reading is a lot of fun, but when you are being forced to complete the reading in a certain time, you are tempted to read fast which will result in skipping a couple of pages. So, incorporating a timely reading at a young age won’t hurt the child but be beneficial for them until they can decide their reading pace. When they have this time to find this pace would be deemed the artful process.

  19. Rachel Reicher

    I was never a fast reader and I only read to get to the ending, I was never deeply connected to a book. I would count the number of pages I had left before I was done. I am one of those people who does not enjoy a book if it is not interesting enough for me. Once I find a good read, I do not skim. I do believe in your statement that we tend to loose the books details when we begin to skim. Author are very intelligent in creating the novels, stories, fairy tales and so on that we should take the time to slow down and absorb all the details. Especially in some cases, a detail cannot be missed or the book sequence does not make sense. I too was not struck with the slogan you mentioned. As I grow older and have read more books, this has become more known to me. Slow down because those details are important not only for your entertainment of reading but because there is meaning behind every book. Thank you for sharing this great read!

  20. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing! I have recently realized that I too was reading to fast to the point where I was skimming most of the book. I decided that instead of leaving so little time to actually read the book that would then force me to skim I was going to give myself more time. I started at the beginning of this school year and it has changed my whole attitude when it comes to reading assignments. I have been giving myself more time so that I can actually get involved with the book. For one of my classes this semester the story grabbed me right away and after recently finishing it, it has been added to my list of my favorite books. The whole speed reading mentality ruins the real meaning behind reading. When you start to skim you cannot invest yourself into the story fully. In the end you are cheating yourself out of a good book. Great Article!

  21. Amanda Sullivan

    I don’t remember the “read, reAD, READ!” slogan. However, I do remember learning to read at a quicker pace and forgetting about the comprehension of the book. I really enjoy this article because it is so true. We tend to forget the importance of enjoying the book, rather than simply finishing it. As I was reading your article, it reminding me a lot of how I read for school. I tend to forget that the purpose of reading the textbook is to get something out of it, not to just finish the assigned reading. Thank you for sharing.

  22. amanda greene

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I am glad I am not the only one who recognizes this. I find that reading a book to your fastest capability is almost like an insult to the author. When I am invested in a very good book, I’ll purposely slow down because I never want the story to end. But I don’t enjoy the high school’s “read, reAD, READ!” program either. Even when I took the ACT, I was confused on why we were being tested on how fast we could read the stories and then quickly answer questions on them. I relate well to what you are saying because I find myself skimming a lot especially when I am reading dry textbooks. I have to reread the whole thing again anyways. Even in a book that I am reading for fun, I’ll start to skim over the less interesting parts and then I miss out on important details that add to the story. I completely agree that we shouldn’t read just to be fast and get the highest number of books. I think the point of the reading a book is to understand it fully, not just to finish it.

  23. Michaela Campbell

    Hi Ellery, this is an enlightening piece, because it caused me to reflect on my own reading experiences and how the fast-paced reading phenomenon has influenced my intake of information over the past decade. I would like to first point out that I am impressed with the number of books you have read in your life so far, even if some of them were skimmed over! It is important that you pointed out the origins of this reading phenomenon, because what happens in our early stages of development directly impacts what occurs later on in development. I think things such as reading competitions and reading rewards programs in our youth instigated fast-paced reading, and simultaneously took the enjoyment out of reading. I am glad that you have noticed this issue that has impacted our reading patterns, and that you are making a conscious effort to slow down your reading pace and enjoy your book’s content.

  24. Avnish Miyangar

    This is definitely something I have thought about many times. It is true that in most case scenarios we believe quantity is better than quality. You clearly read a lot and made some very valid points. This reminds me of when we spoke about the meaning of words. How they change over time. How they cannot always be translated into other languages exactly. How some words are no longer used or have been replaced. I think this may differ my approach now to when I am reading new material. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Kendra Brunn

    Thank you for sharing! When I was younger, I absolutely loved reading books and I would read every chance I got. However, when we started having to read for class, that changed because I was a much slower reader than everyone else in my class. I would get kind of embarrassed because I was always the last one to finish, so I started just skimming. This worked fine until it came to the quizzes and I could not answer any of the questions. I did not absorb any information when I skimmed, and I had started to hate reading. I love this article because it really made me consider if reading fast is actually “better”. I will think of this the next time I have time to read!

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