Service of Slow Reading

September 25th, 2014

Categories: Addiction, Group, Read with Care

group reading

In Jeanne Whalen’s article, “Read This as Slowly as You Can,” she wrote, “Slow reading means a return to a continuous, linear pattern, in a quiet environment free of distractions.” She explained in her Wall Street Journal article: “Screens have changed our reading patterns from the linear, left-to-right sequence of years past to a wild skimming and skipping pattern as we hunt for important words and information.”

reading onlineIn addition to “saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize,” Whalen identified substantive reasons reading a book–in traditional or e-book format–was beneficial:

  • “A study of 300 elderly people published by the journal Neurology last year showed that regular engagement in mentally challenging activities, including reading, slowed rates of memory loss in participants’ later years.”
  • “A piece of research published in Developmental Psychology in 1997 showed first-grade reading ability was closely linked to 11th grade academic achievements.”

Regardless, she reported a Pew Research Center survey of Americans 18 years and older that showed 76 percent had read a book “this year” vs. 79 percent three years ago.

old person readingNothing earthshaking about this information yet, right?

What struck me was what Whealen wrote about the growing trend of groups formed to slow read. She identified such places as Seattle, Boston, Minneapolis, Brooklyn, Orange County, Calif. and New Zealand.

Given that reading a book, much like writing one, is a one-person project [unless you’re reading out loud to someone], why does anyone require a group of others to do so? Whalen reports that the objective of one of these clubs is “to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted.” While she doesn’t say so, I wonder if these groups are simply a pleasant way for people to get to know new people. Or could they actually be like any of the many proven groups that help people address addictions, to give the readers permission to unplug from all their speedy devices with the support of others in the same boat to do so?

in the same boat

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6 Responses to “Service of Slow Reading”

  1. ASK Said:

    Remember Evelyn Wood? She must be spinning in her grave!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Ha ha! Yet I don’t think speed reading system innovator Wood would need to spin too much as she’s winning the argument with the way people zip through material on their computer, tablet and smartphone screens–they zoom and skim. I didn’t take her course but think that skimming and searching for key words may have been the secret in her sauce.

    I can’t predict whether these groups will really take off or if they represent a fringe. If a fringe, she can rest easy as well.

  3. Hester Craddock Said:

    Old age has a funny effect. Time goes by faster and faster as there is less and less of it left. Yet you increasingly realize how much more you get out of what you are doing if you do it slowly, whether it is sipping a glass of fine wine, looking at a great painting or reading a fine piece of writing.

    When I worked for a living, I would read, or more truthfully, skim, hundreds of pages of writing a day. After a while you learn how to glean much, but not all, of what is important out of what you read. But that is no way to value, and benefit all the more from, great writing.

    It reminds me of when I was a schoolgirl, and I had many years ahead of me. I was in such a hurry that I did not have the time to read Shakespeare plays assigned to us for study. Instead, I read Charles and Mary Lamb’s summaries of them. Who was the looser? Not Shakespeare, not the Lambs, not my school mistress. (She may have been disappointed in me, but was used to teaching schoolgirls in a hurry.) It was I.

    It took me fifty years, though, to realize how much I had lost out on when I was a youngster on the go.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m a juggler and do better when I have a few things going on at once which tends to mean that I rush and don’t do things slowly, but it’s my temperament, and I’m not proud of it. I either have expectations of myself that push me to add to my list of “to do’s” or life tosses things at me and the result is to get much of it done, I must be quick and efficient.

    I never read the shortened versions of great literature at school though I should read again much of what I read when young as I’m certain I could get far more out of it all than I did.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Some of us warm to the comfort of support groups, and others prefer the challenge of making it alone. The same with group rather than solo reading. The idea of having to seek company to enjoy a book does not appeal. On the other hand, I wish such groups much success, especially since it encourages not only reading, but perhaps learning as well.

    PS I would be fit for the insane asylum if limited to a book a year.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I think that the poll-takers were afraid to ask whether respondents had read more than one book a year so we’ll never know, from that survey, the total number of those who read the most.

    I agree that anything that has all the benefits that reading a book purports to have should be encouraged and if it takes joining a group to set aside the time to read, great. Nobody has invited me to belong to such a group, nor had I heard of the clubs/groups before, which is why I chose the topic.

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