The Worst Type of Speed Reading

February 26, 2009

I would like to think of myself as a great reader.  In reality, I am only a good reader in the right environment.  I finally had to admit that Mom was right – I cannot read well in front of the TV, while listening to music, or in two minute bursts.  I read best when I clear some time, turn off distractions, and really focus on the book in front of me.  (Panera is my secret study.)  Reading becomes a lot easier with a little preparation.

One other challenge to my reading comprehension has been my aspirations to be a “speed reader.”  You know, able to consume a book as if it were a #1 combo from Firehouse Subs.  Alas, the speed techniques I sometimes employ actually work against my growth when I read.  This was brought to mind when I read a good post by Seth Godin:

Yes, you can read a summary of a book instead of a book, or watch the trailer instead of the movie, or read the executive summary of the consultant’s report instead of the whole thing… but the parts you miss are there for a reason.

Real change is rarely caused by the good parts. Real change and impact and joy come from the foundation and the transitions and the little messages that sneak in when you least expect them. The highlights of the baseball game are highlights largely because the rest of the game got you ready for them.

Don’t skip that page, it’s there for a reason.

Seth reminds us that taking the time to read rather than “catching the highlights” or the summary is part of the process of allowing our reading to affect us.

This becomes especially true when I think about what I sometimes skip. Have you ever come to a passage of scripture in a book, recognized it as one you’ve read before, and said “I know that – I can skip to the next paragraph.”  Maybe you haven’t, but I have in the name of “speed reading.”  I skipped over the only part of that page that was actually God-breathed, that the Holy Spirit has promised to speak through.  That’s foolish.  Worse, I have found myself flying through my Bible reading for the sake of time or finishing a chapter. That’s a sure sign that I’m more interested in “quitting time” than quiet time.

The type of reading that really changes us is easy for very few people.  However, a little preparation, a prayerful attitude, and a willingness to resist “skipping that page” will surely bring rewards.  Oh, and choosing excellent books is always a plus.  Use the comment section to let us know what books you have found helpful recently.

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4 Responses to “The Worst Type of Speed Reading”

  1. Ashley Robbins Says:

    Talk about being tempted to speed read! I am slowly reading through Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I wanted to skip through some of it because it is so long, but I’m pretty sure he has a purpose and is working up to something good.

  2. Patti Traffanstedt Says:

    I speed read fiction books, but when reading the Bible or study books I take my time on them. I, also, watch TV and read fiction books, which is no problem, but again when reading the Bible, study books or good non-fiction books I take my time on them and not in front of the TV.

  3. Drew Says:

    That’s wise, Patti. I’d love to know what books you have found helpful recently.


  4. Now that I have the time I don’t hurry with my reading. I love to read and only watch news and sports on TV.


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