How do you read ? Over ?

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No, this isn’t a piece about an air traffic controller trying to get through to a missing plane. It’s a series of questions which has been bothering me for a while.

How DO you read ? Hmm…maybe we should start with deciding what reading is. How about this- reading is the ability to deduce meaning from symbols, behaviour, places or situations. You read a bus timetable to find out when the next bus is coming- and when you meet a stranger, you’re reading voice, dress, stance- in order to decide what you think about the person in front of you.

Let’s stick with reading text, otherwise this will be a very long post indeed. Scanning is the fastest mode of reading. You’re in a strange town and you want a cup of coffee, so your eyes flick round for a Starbucks, Nero or whatever brand of beige frothed milk you prefer. You see the sign- and in you go.

Skipping is when you’re looking for something specific from a text- your eyes flick from page to page looking for key words.

But then reading….reading the whole text…reading for pleasure. What motivates you to do that?
Esacpe is a part of it. You become engrossed in a novel, you inhabit the story world. You develop relationships with the main characters…you care about them…and they never really existed. How strange. You feel a sense of loss when you get to the end of the story because you’re back in the real world and it’s over.

Now I’m wondering if it’s harder than it was to immerse yourself in a book than it was in the pre-digital age. We demand a diet of fast information Maybe the rise of the haiku can be attributed to the prevalence of texting. We need it punchy, short, accessible. Fast reading, like fast food.

Now don’t get me wrong, fast reading is a vital skill. I’m just saying that slow reading- turning off the tv and reading a chapter a night- that’s not a bad skill to have either. And it’s a lot of fun.

What do you think ?

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7 thoughts on “How do you read ? Over ?

  1. I slow read everything that is fiction, and a lot of non-fiction too. When I pick up a book and it grabs me, I want to savour it. I don’t give in to the temptation to steam ahead, because then it ends sooner than I am ready to give it up. So I agree with you, slow reading is not a bad skill to have. It has a lot of pleasure and prolonged anticipation to offer.

  2. When I tell my students that we are going to read a novel, their first question is always, “how long is it?” When their favored form of communication can be counted in characters rather than full words, it isn’t surprising that they are immediately suspicious of anything over a couple of pages. But I battle to intrigue them with the long read, the short story, the novel, because here is a richness to the worlds one can find there that isn’t usually available in a 140 character tweet.

    • I always found that Hardy was a hard sell- and that girls were happier with a longform narrative than boys.I’m all for texts being “accessible” but sometimes things should be tough, challenging and, in the end, more rewarding.

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