How Sonlight Hindered Me in College

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Blogs have finally taught me a skill I had failed to master until now. I couldn't do it in high school. I still couldn't do it in college.

I realized I had made a breakthrough when my dad recently asked me, "How do you keep up with all the blogs you follow?"

I'm the kind of guy who reads at the speed of writing: One word at a time. There's no way I could burn through several hundred posts every morning in a couple of hours.

But I do.

The skill required to pull off such a feat is something called "skimming."

Skimming is the art of letting your eyes pick out important words within large amounts of text to get a gist of the meaning or topic. This was, in theory, how I was supposed to read my college History textbooks. I was supposed to somehow glean the information I needed by burning through dozens of dull pages of drivel to find the important meaning buried within the poor writing.

I couldn't do it.

I read, word by word, through a few paragraphs before my brain crashed. I would wake up a couple hours later, having learned nothing. I had no idea how to find the "important" words within the chapters. Shouldn't every word be important? Clearly not. But in college I was still stuck with the idea that published books selected by my educator should contain a significant amount of important information. I blame it on my Sonlight background. Every book my mom handed me had meaning and was a joy.

Blogging finally broke me of thinking that written words must contain deep meaning for me. Not because your posts are lame and meaningless. Not at all. But I quickly discovered that I personally was not interested in certain topics. On the other hand, I found myself reading any post that had to do with a few particular subjects. The more I read blogs, the better I become at recognizing the key words and phrases that alert me to a topic of interest or importance to me.

In reading the headline and scanning a post for a few key words, I can now decide if I should read all of it, skim sections of it, or move on to the next post. It is incredibly freeing. I can cover so much more ground because of it.

Sadly, because I was raised on Sonlight's incredible literature, I grew up believing that every block of text contained a goldmine of value. This hindered me in college (and a bit in high school) when I began to encounter flat and pointless texts.


I'm thankful for the Sonlight Difference. The pain I experienced from reading dry textbooks in college says far more about the nature of those texts than it does about Sonlight.

Still, it is nice to have finally mastered a skill I'd heard about all these years.

Do you find it hard to skim great literature? How did you learn to skim?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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About Luke

Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
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14 Responses to How Sonlight Hindered Me in College

  1. The HoJo's says:

    I adore reading and used to read absolutely anything, now I am older and in charge of my own time I am a little fussier and will return a library book half read if I dislike it, will skim an article until a keyword jumps out and can retain most of what I have read short term and will go back and read carefully what seems to need re-reading and remembering. I was always a fast reader so perhaps my skimming came easy because of this.


  2. Jana C. says:

    You can say that again. Skimming is a time saver. But you need to saver Sonlights timeless selection. ;-)

  3. Robin E. says:

    I was 20-something before I learned to skim, and it was for much the same reason as you, Luke, to spend my limited time on the things I find personally interesting or relevant(I needed to skim because not all how-to books are actually worthy of the time they take to read).

    Anyway, one of the reasons I homeschool with Sonlight is that I don't want my kids to develop the skimming habit until they have the wisdom to use it wisely.

  4. Nichole says:

    Having been through public school since Kindergarten and having a love of good books, I learned to skim early on. Skimming is a necessity, especially in college for those professors who are not good at choosing books.

  5. Jenn4him says:

    I am not aloud to skim when I am reading to my children. They would protest! I do skim when I am trying to get through more technical stuff that I am reading for myself. It is amazing how fast I can get through a book these days and still retain knowledge. Plus, I will take notes if I really want to remember something. I will have to remember to bring this up with my kids one of these days. They may have the same issue as you since they are brought up on Sonlight,too. :-)

  6. Kahlua Keeping Koala says:

    I skim anything that isn't good reading. If my son makes it through three chapters and just cannot stand a book, we put it away. I'm teaching him through the Usborne science book (6) to look for what you care about and skip the rest. I am using a sort of SRA reading lab for my 1st grader who then has to answer the questions after he reads a short story. Get the main idea...

  7. Kahlua Keeping Koala says:

    It is a real skill. I don't know if I picked it up early on in my schooling because I never read an entire book until I was in 7th grade and thus book reports were nothing but skimming. I also was taught the reverse of good writing. First paragraph. First sentence of each paragraph. Last Paragraph. Then you can see if you really care.

  8. mom says:

    I'm sorry.....skimming great literature? Inconceivable! :-)


  9. Michelle says:

    My 6th-grade reading teacher, Mrs. Aimers, taught me how to speed-read, ie, skim.

    It's a wonderful skill to have, but made science and math difficult subjects for me. In those texts, every 'if' or 'but' carries meaning.

    I find myself reading through our Sonlight books quickly - I want to find out what happens! Then as I read them aloud to my children, I'm free to think about deeper meanings and/or themes of the books.

    Congrats on learning how to skim! Guess I should figure out if my kids have learned that skill yet...


  10. Eternal Instants says:

    Am I a skimmer?... Not so much. However, there are a few good reasons to get good at this skill. If I had a very busy blog, I'd use the skill more often but I don't get enough hits on my blog for that... yet.

    Great post though!

  11. Luke says:

    Thanks for your feedback, everyone!


  12. Jamie Jo says:

    I agree with savoring all truly good literature, but I do confess to skimming over blogs to find ones that strike my fancy. Once I find one, though, I read it like they are speaking to me.

    Maybe Sonlight could offer a high school elective in speed reading for college success.

  13. Luke says:

    Good idea, Jamie. That may prove very helpful for students. Thanks for the suggestion!


  14. Pingback: The Speed at which You Read | Sonlight Blog

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