Now that New York State schools have adopted the Common Core curriculum, a lot of us parents are mystified by the new rules for academic success as determined by the educational powers that be. One of the things that my husband and I keep getting stuck on is how much of an emphasis is now placed on speed. Our third grader must answer math problems in less than four seconds per problem, for instance. Given that most of my math is done either on my iPhone calculator or my fingers, I have no moral authority to speak about that one, but when they tell me that eight-year-olds have to read a certain number of words in one minute in order to establish reading “fluency,” well, that’s when the tic in my left eyelid becomes pronounced.
Which, as many things do on this blog, leads to a shameful confession: I am a slow reader.
Given the thousands of pages I read in the course of a typical month, people assume that I took that speed reading course they used to advertise on television back in the day. I did not. I am the kind of reader who compulsively reads every word and who pauses often to swirl a particularly juicy adjective around or take loving note of an exceptionally well turned phrase. When it comes to work, I sometimes hate that I am so slow–my manuscript piles reproduce like Tribbles, after all. On the flip side, I think I am a much more insightful reader and editor as a result of my tortoise-like approach to the material in front of me.
Thing is, I read books the way I eat dessert. I want both experiences to last as long as humanly possible so the enjoyment derived from them will be prolonged as well. What good is a bowl of ice cream if the primary experience is brain freeze from slurping it down too quickly? Similarly, what’s the point of speed skating through a great novel or non-fiction narrative only to be done and on to the next? Don’t we already live our lives doing constant hamster sprints as we struggle to keep up with the masses of information being thrown at us? Shouldn’t we take a stand and force ourselves to read deliberately, thoughtfully, patiently, discerningly…slowly? Wouldn’t that be better for our intellectual development as well as our souls?
I think the world needs less fast tracking and more thinking it through. And, I’m not the only one. Hopefully, my kid will learn that writing can be savored, not just devoured, that it is not just a means to an end but an end in itself.
What say you? Is fast reading an important skill in the internet age or is there more value in the slow(er) processing of information? And, how long does it take you to read an average book?