Slow Reading

University of New Hampshire English Professor Thomas Newkirk thinks it’s time to slow academics down a little. Reading, after all, can be pleasurable and reading slowly can promote both understanding and enjoyment. According to an Associated Press article by Holly Ramer in the Concord Monitor:

Thomas Newkirk isn’t the first or most prominent proponent of the so-called “slow reading” movement, but he argues it’s becoming all the more important in a culture and educational system that often treats reading as fast food to be gobbled up as quickly as possible.

Newkirk is encouraging schools from elementary through college to return to old strategies such as reading aloud and memorization as a way to help students truly “taste” the words. He uses those techniques in his own classroom, where students have told him that they’ve become so accustomed to flitting from page to page online that they have trouble concentrating while reading printed books.

It’s not that Newkirk believes the slowest reading is the best, or that he thinks everyone should read as slowly as he possibly can. Like with slow food, it’s about people paying attention to what they read and the information they consume. The tactic is also called close reading, which is practiced mainly in literary criticism.

Close reading has a long way to travel before it becomes common, however. The whole standards based reform movement—which has the admirable goal of ensuring that every American receive a rigorous education according to clear, measurable standards—depends on the timed test to determine student learning and understanding.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer