In Defense of Slow Reading

By Elizabeth Rich — June 21, 2010 1 min read
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Earlier in the day I was speaking with our book whisperer blogger Donalyn Miller about reading. She’s spearheading a book-a-day summer reading challenge for adults, which, by the way, has gone viral.

In light of this, Donalyn mentioned University of New Hampshire English professor Thomas Newkirk’s “slow reading” movement. Donalyn was discussing the difference between slow reading and fast reading. Fast reading—for lack of a better term—is something you do when you’re deliberately plowing through dozens of YA books like she is this summer. Donalyn would agree that fast reading should come with a warning label. Children: Do not try this at home!

Last week, the Associated Press had a story about Newkirk’s push for slow reading. Newkirk thinks, like many people, that all of the time spent zipping through websites, emails, and texting is conditioning students to zip through books as well. Newkirk tells AP that his students have confessed that flying through online pages is preventing them from being able to concentrate on printed books.

“You see schools where reading is turned into a race, you see kids on the stopwatch to see how many words they can read in a minute,” he said. “That tells students a story about what reading is. It tells students to be fast is to be good.”

Newkirk and other slow-reading proponents suggest, instead, memorization and reading aloud as a way to encourage students to “taste” what they’re reading.

While you might see a benefit as an adult to fast reading, what is the culture of reading among students you know? Are students speeding through or savoring the text?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.