You’ve probably heard of the ‘slow food movement’, which teaches us to eschew fast food and embrace wholesome stuff like local suppliers, seasonal produce and home cooked goodness. But have you heard about ‘slow reading’? According to recent research about reading habits, this back-to-basics approach to tackling texts is the hot new way for stressed out modern folk to tune out from digital noise. So, could it be coming to a bean bag near you?
What is the slow reading movement?
It might seem kind of obvious, but the slow reading movement is the antithesis of our current need for speed when it comes to texts of all kinds. The approach is not new (Wikipedia tells me the phrase was coined by Nietzshe in 1887!) but it’s trendy right now because of the crazy acceleration of our access to words. Where once we were forced to make our way through paragraphs, even pages, of words to find the key points of a news article, we now have the highlights handed to us via hyperlinks and ‘above the fold’ summaries. We skim, we glean, we grab at bits and pieces – but how often do we seriously read? Slow reading is partly about old fashioned appreciation of a good book, but it’s also about the ‘art’ of reading where one savours each sentence and digests a more complete message before moving onto the next headline.
What are the benefits of reading slowly?
The first benefit of slowing down your approach to reading is better comprehension. It heightens your ability to concentrate and – through reduced anxiety – makes you more open to new ideas and complex emotions or concepts. According to the Wall Street Journal, reading has major benefits for young and old. One study suggested that your first grade reading level is directly correlated to your 11th grade academic achievement levels. Another study showed that regular, challenging reading can help stave off memory loss in old age. Reading slowly amplifies these benefits by giving you time to properly engage with a text, appreciate words and improve your own vocabulary, and develop a more empathetic relationship with the world around you. It also gives you a physical break from your daily run around and a mental break from other pressures, with potential health benefits akin to a ‘power nap’ or short meditation.
Sign me up! (No rush)
Luckily there’s no formal initiation ceremony or membership fee if you wish to get onboard the slow reading steam train. Advocates suggest taking 30-45 minutes of each day to go totally screen-free (or at least, disconnect your Kindle from any networks) so that reading can take place without pop up ads or Facebook status alerts getting in your way. Given that this is a book review blog, you may think I’m preaching to the converted as a lot of you possibly already do this when it comes to novels. But what about news? Magazines? Even messages from friends? Would you consider storing them up into one document that you could read at a suitably quiet time? And this is not about being anti-Internet or anti-ebook but about finding a way to better manage our interactions with these new technologies. Not to mention preserving our ability to read longer and more detailed texts – a skill that is, frankly, on the way out.
If you do wish to ‘formally’ associate yourself with the slow reading movement, there are apparently clubs springing up in cities across the world. Just bring a bottle of wine, pull up a chair, open your book and DON’T SPEAK to anyone for at least an hour. Sounds like bliss right?
Have you heard of the slow reading movement? Does it sound like something you need – or something you already do?
Linking up with Grace today for Flog Yo Blog Friday!