“Hurry Up”

I am delighted when I read other bloggers respond to reading challenges, such as going through 25 books in a summer. In a similar vein, I encourage my grandchildren to enter book stores’ summer reading programs with a free book as a reward. I appreciate those readers who keep track on Good Reads and similar platforms. But as for me, I am a recovering speed reader now focusing on slow reading.

In grade school we were constantly encouraged to read faster. This peaked in seventh grade when we were introduced to the contraption pictured above, a controlled reading machine. It projected filmstrips on a screen with just a portion of a sentence at a time. The speed increased every time we were shown these passages which were broken down into bits as illustrated in the right hand photo. The faster the filmstrip bits sped by, the more anxious I became. Anxiety shuts down the cerebral cortex, so I lost the ability to comprehend anything. Unbelievably, I still am haunted by a selection focusing on the stickleback fish and its mating habits! It totally confused me and I never forgot the ordeal.

In college my roommate took the Evelyn Wood speed reading course to try to keep up with her assigned reading. It seemed to involve moving one hand diagonally across the page quickly. I never tried it, but she thought it worth the tuition. I just tried reading ever faster, particularly the semester I had to read a 19th century British novel each week. I wasn’t able to because I kept falling asleep.

A good friend introduced me to the concept of slow reading. She really takes her time with each book with no intention of hurrying herself along. Remarkably she actually remembers what she reads! I am trying her method this summer, lazily reading my way through literary biographies a few pages at a time. I have more time to absorb and think about what I am reading. But I won’t come close to covering 25 books this summer. Maybe I need to establish a new reward for the least reading done!

24 thoughts on ““Hurry Up”

  1. I have never seen such a machine, and have little truck with ‘speed reading’. I have read fifteen books since January, but I would never set myself a ‘target’. I am currently reading a hardback novel that requires considerable concentration on the plot. If I read it any faster, I would surely become confused.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  2. I took a college study skills class in high school and they used a projector like that. It was called Tach-x. I did not learn to read faster as a result. However they also taught Gregg shorthand and it helped me immensely.


  3. I’m a scanner. I miss a lot. Scanning doesn’t work if you’re trying to edit your writing so I am trying to concentrate more and read every word (but it takes so long…)
    Also I don’t remember the plots of the books I’ve read before. On the plus side I can enjoy them almost as much second time around


  4. Thankfully I was never exposed to a contraption like that. And I never thought about trying to read fast. I’ve always enjoyed reading at whatever pace suits the material. Slower is better for pure enjoyment I think.


  5. I am not into speed reading. I never tried it but I like reading those I am interested in. When you like the subject, you tend to hasten your reading time especially when you are into a series. You want to know what happens next. I like setting a goal though, at least a hundred books a year,a mixture of memoirs, novels, YA books and the like. I stopped reading self-help books, done that years ago. When one reads for pleasure, anything goes.


  6. That machine sounds dreadful. I’m sure it would have distressed me too. I don’t read quickly and indeed relish the luxury of slow reading just as you describe. As one who is trying the 20 books of summer challenge, I don’t see it as meaning I shall read faster – I hope that doesn’t happen! I fully expect to fall short of the 20 books target – but it will be fun trying! Happy reading – however we choose to read, the key thing is to enjoy it 🙂


        1. The one I am reading about Walt Whitman does an excellent job of describing Brooklyn when he was writing. I am learning a great deal.


  7. I read very fast, Elizabeth. I never really tried to do that, it is just how it is. I generally remember what I read very well unless it is boring and I am reading it for a purpose other than that I want to read it. People should read at the pace that suits them and not at the pace inflicted on them by others. Greg reads fast, like me, Michael reads slower, like his Dad. I don’t care, I am just thrilled they both read.


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