Writing (and Reading) on Wednesdays: It’s Not a Book Club
“Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress,” by Jeanne Whalen.
Evidently there’s a movement afoot to bring people “back” to reading the old-fashioned way—slowly, thoughtfully, and for the sheer pleasure of reading. Groups are springing up in various places where they gather for 30 minutes to an hour just to read. Whalen talks about how reading from computers and tablets has changed the way we read… we skim quickly, click on links and follow them, which distracts us from the material we are reading.
These are not book clubs. There is no discussion of the books being read. Physical books aren’t required by the members of these new reading groups—some folks read eBooks with the internet disconnected—but the point is to slow down and allow the stories to permeate your brain. That’s what “slow reading” is all about. According to Whalen:
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…. Slow reading means a return to a continuous, linear pattern, in a quiet environment free of distractions. Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers.
This really isn’t different from what I’ve been doing recently. My “reading time” is separate from my computer time. It’s usually when I get in bed at night, or sometimes when I take a rest break during the day. That’s when I get out whatever book I’m reading and immerse myself in the story, usually for about 30 minutes, maybe an hour. I enjoy it, but I do find it takes a commitment to leave the world of quick entertainment (internet and TV) and get back to the book.
Does it matter what the reading material is during “slow reading” time? Whalen recommends literary fiction:
A study published last year in Science showed that reading literary fiction helps people understand others’ mental states and beliefs, a crucial skill in building relationships.
But I think those same benefits can also come from reading quality creative nonfiction, which uses scenes to tell true stories and share information with the reader. It’s not really so much about what we are reading, but how.
The chart below shows some tips and benefits of slowing down our reading process. If you’ve lost the joy of reading, you might try learning to read like a first grader!