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!