Slow Reading Invites Thinking, Discovery

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I begin most days by reading the news. I read our local paper and a bit of national ones. I like to “keep up,” as us info junkies say.

When I’m involved in something that prohibits my ability to read, I’ll listen to the news. I especially enjoy The New York Times online version’s invitation to enjoy listening to a fluent and expressive reader of an article, which often is written by an eminent scholar whose work I admire.

I recently listened to an article that was slowly and beautifully read by a gentleman while I enjoyed my breakfast. As ate I realized how quickly I normally read aloud when I encounter something online worth sharing with my wife. I reflected that when I read aloud in haste my words get tangled up and I need to restart. Sometimes I misread things.

The NYT reader, on the other hand, was deliberate and thoughtful and a real joy to listen to. It occurred to me that I miss a lot by rushing through a book or my daily news reading, not giving myself a chance to stop, think and enjoy.

Then I thought about children…as I always do. When I have read to a classroom of kids or to my own children, sometimes lunchtime was coming up, bedtime was past, or I was just plain tired, so I’d hurry through their choice of books. This was especially sad when the book was a new one for the children and they were wide-eyed about what might be coming next in the story, or what new bit of information about the world would be revealed at the turn of the page.

What had I done? Had I encouraged deep, mentally relaxed and personally fulfilling reading in their lives or had I just gotten finished quickly? Regretfully I know it was the latter.

So, I’d like to encourage those reading to children, especially wee ones, NOT to rush through the reading of books. Go slow. If your reading time can only accommodate the reading of one book, please read it richly.

We need to read slowly to little ones because they are learning new vocabulary and ideas from what they hear. They also are processing novel perspectives, and considering and absorbing new phrasings, terminologies and sentence complexities. Little kids, especially those less than 36 months old, need the opportunity to stop and thoughtfully discuss what they find fascinating, curious or confusing. So do really big kids, of course.

Slow reading invites fluent and expressive reading, not simply cursory, “accurate” reading. It invites interpretation which carries emotions about humor, discovery and surprise.

A principle practice of good teachers is that they demonstrate for children what they are hoping the kids will learn to do. The same is true for parents and other family members. Our demonstrations must show that reading is personal, not a race or a perfunctory chore. Reading is about thinking and feeling, connecting with a book’s words and illustrations. That conviction should be a baseline, an ever-present foundation, for promoting literacy, K-12.

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2 Responses to “Slow Reading Invites Thinking, Discovery”

  1. Frances Guthrie January 25, 2021 at 11:14 am #

    Excellent, thought-provoking article. It made me remember that on “new to me” subject turf, I read slowly to glean and increase understanding of the material. Second or third reads are much quicker until finally I can explain the concepts without notes or texts. Are our students any different? We must give ourselves time to turn text over, around, upside down and process to the deepest level possible.

    • Mark Condon January 26, 2021 at 7:53 am #

      Excellent points, Frances! Inviting them to read slowly for themselves, not just for others, is such a powerful affirmation of their personhoods.