The Speed at which You Read

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I read slowly. I find myself taking in each word, one at a time. I often pause between sentences and paragraphs to let what I've just ingested soak into my mind, coloring the way I think. Often, when reading a fascinating book, I'll stop mid-chapter to give my psyche a chance to integrate this new information.

This does not work with most textbooks. Each page is filled with fluff and filler, long-winded sentences -- so full of needless complexity and obscure lexicon that ingesting the coursework requires intemperate industry merely to stay on topic (let alone acquire actionable appreciation of the material on hand), and boring writing that shoves each unexplored universe of human experience into a narcoleptic hypnosis of emptiness, punctuated now and again by boxes with highlighted text that may, or -- just as likely -- may not, appear on our next test. I did very poorly in my college history classes for this very reason. I required no sleep aids. From an academic standpoint, this was the hardest part of adjusting to classrooms from Sonlight: Rarely did I encounter the richness of what I knew from homeschooling.

Blogs have taught me to skim.

And I totally understand the far-off look of experiencing a novel for pleasure, where the process of decoding words is simply the mechanism by which we discover the story. In those cases, the faster I read, the better.

Which is why I've always been interested in speed reading. I would love to be able to get through more content without fatigue setting in. And today I bumped into Spritz. I wish I could embed it in the blog here for you to try out in a live setting. The ideas behind Spritz are excellent; I find it much easier to use than a more generic speed reading tool. I'm not at all convinced it would help with conversational writing, but it worked great for the articles on their site.

Even when I will be able to embed such a tool in my browser, there will still be books and blogs I will wish to savor. Reading speed is one thing, comprehension another, but both miss out on the third element of written communication: Application. I can follow a line of thought as well-placed words flutter before my eyes, but I need time to let those ideas shape me.

This is one reason, I believe, we are urged to meditate on God's Word (such as in Joshua 1:8). Understanding the text is one thing; determining how to put it into practice is something else entirely. And, for certain kinds of material, we need to spend some time with it. In those situations, I'm glad I read slowly.

Do you ever spend time mulling stuff over while you read? Are you a speed reader? Have you found a tool -- online or elsewhere -- that has helped you mow through more material when needed?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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