On studying: part 2: reading slowly, word by word, with joy

I like to continue with the subject of reading a bit.

I do not need to rehash the importance of reading and reading well. Too many words had been written to encourage people to read that it has become a cliché. The unfortunately is even after so much had been written and said, the habit of reading had been dwindling. So I just like to add my two cents here.

I want to start by saying that I have been reading all my life, but there were moments I absolutely despise reading. I know the feeling of not wanting to read another word. So here is a three point recommendation based on my own experience for starting the journey of forming a reading habit. A reading habit is the first step to develop the craft of reading. If you do not read you will not read well. I must say I am in debt to both Daniel Pennac’s book “Better than life” and James Sire’s book “How to read Slowly” for the following:

First, only read what you like, meaning for pleasure, not what you were told. The obligation to read is the single biggest obstacle to reading. I do not know why but once you feel you need to do something your motivation level drops no matter how passionate you are about it. Even if it is mandatory reading in school, you can still find it pleasurable. You want to find the desire to read. When you cannot find it ask your teacher. A good teacher should be a good motivator. However, do not ask “what is the minimal I should be reading?” You are looking for quality not quantity. Instead ask, “what is the best I should be reading?” If you ask the second question instead of the first one your teacher will gladly point you the way.

That brings us to the second point: take baby steps. Start with a chapter, a page, a paragraph and yes, a sentence. (Aside: Stanley Fish’s “How to write a sentence” is a great read. Start reading chapter eight: first sentence and you’ll want to read the rest.) Remember you do not need to finish a book unless you want to. So as little as you like. The paradox is for the quality read, not only will you finish the book, you’ll re-read it. The question is “what is a “good” book?” Hmm, that for another time. For now you can go read Fish or Pennac or Sire.

Finally, read slowly. If you spent an hour reading a good sentence and find it pleasurable. You know you are on your way. You just experience you first “high”. You will be addicted. The following two examples are two more “high” for you. Are you addicted yet?

“So in the room called Remember it is possible to find peace—the peace that comes from looking back and remembering to remember that though most of the time we failed to see it, we were never really alone.”
Frederick Buechner, “A room Called Remember”

“We can never picture God or imagine him. Either we make him too small, and we strain at that, or we make him too big, and he strains us.”
Frederick von Hugel, “Letters to a Niece”

Of course, not all reading are as pleasurable, sometime you have to do “professional” or “pragmatic” readings. On the other hand, starting habitual-pleasurable reading will make the professional or pragmatic reading more tolerable and profitable. Read slowly, word by word, with joy, a brave new world awaits you.


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