September 17, 2014
Slow Reading movement wants you to slooooow down, read better
by Julia Fleischaker
In the tradition of slow design, slow food, slow living, and, sure, the slow loris, slow reading advocates would like you to stop doing everything so darn quickly. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the modern pace of life and its sheer number of distractions has given rise to a slow reading movement. How do you know if you need to adopt a slow reading lifestyle?
Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn’t make it through a book anymore.
Not being able to make it through a book is a good clue. (One woman in Orange County is quoted as saying, “When I realized I read Twitter more than a book, I knew it was time for action.”) Slow reading takes away the Twitter, and anything else that leads to distraction. “Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers. Some suggest scheduling time like an exercise session. Many recommend taking occasional notes to deepen engagement with the text.” Sounds like a fun leisure time activity!
Meg Williams, who started the Slow Reading Club in Wellington, New Zealand, has figured out some tips to maximize her group’s meeting time.
When Ms. Williams, who majored in literature in college, convened her first slow reading club in Wellington, she handed out tips for productive reading and notebooks for jotting down favorite words and passages. Each time they meet, the group gathers for a few minutes to slowly breathe in and out to clear their minds before cracking open their books, as in yoga.
So, it’s not quite your typical wine-soaked book club meeting, but jokes aside, slow readers do have a point. Studies have shown that screens have changed our reading patterns, from linear to a “wild skimming and skipping pattern,” and combined with the distractions of email, text messages, and social media, our ability to truly engage with a text has suffered. And since we already know that reading slows memory loss, increases empathy, and reduces stress, it can’t hurt to do everything you can to engage, even if that means yoga breaths and no wine.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.