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    Books & Reading

    Learning to Read Slowly

    March 4, 2006 by Brandy Vencel
    Wisdom is the principal thing;
    therefore get wisdom:
    and with all thy getting get understanding.
    {Proverbs 4:7}


    Were speed reading an Olympic event, I’m not sure I’d win a gold medal. I might not even make the team. But as far as the average person goes, I think I’d win the race as long as my contacts weren’t giving me vision problems.

    This was a very convenient talent in college. I would stay up late reading for a test {sometimes a month’s worth of reading}, and then I could somehow get it to stick long enough in my short term memory to pass the test. Sometimes I did more than pass.

    This ability allowed me to cultivate within myself a bit of disrespect for what it really means to read a book, even what it means to be educated. There has been much discussion on some of the blogs I read concerning institutionalized education {for example, here}. I used to be the type that thought a college degree qualified one as an educated person. And sometimes I teased my husband that my 2/3 of a Master’s degree made me more educated than him! {Of course, I knew that wasn’t true.}

    As I was reading Raising Maidens of Virtue, I did something I hadn’t done in a long time {or ever}. I read it slowly, meditatively even. Part of the reason for this was the topic. I cherish my sweet little daughter, and I was hungry for some words of wisdom in regards to training her. So I decided to not just browse the questions at the end of each chapter {as is my usual way, if I glance at them at all}, but get out my journal and answer most of the questions by hand, forcing myself to think through the answers. And the result was that this book got into my soul in a way that most books never have.

    As I reflect on the effect this had on me, I realize the significance of slowing down when I read. In choosing to see the book as a chance to learn instead of a box to check on my ever-expanding reading list, I was able to absorb its message, compare it with Scripture, discuss it with my husband, and allow my life to change accordingly. Rather than becoming enlarged with all the random facts that I quickly filed away for future easy use, I was humbled to realize how much more this author knew than I did, how great was my need for instruction.

    This is not to say that everyone who reads quickly is like me, rushing to the end so as to gain a sense of completion, often forgetting the merit of what was read. But I will say that I have learned a lesson, that it is the depth of learning that has more importance than the breadth. I am now trying to discipline myself to remain unhurried in my approach to reading, to make a habit of gleaning the most I can from what is at hand. Instead of speeding down a freeway, so to speak, I’m going to be taking some country roads and enjoying the scenery a bit. Sometimes, one good book read slowly can enrich a soul more than a thousand read with thoughtless speed.


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