Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Whalen on Slow Reading

In the September 15, 2014, edition of The Wall Street Journal, Jeanne Whalen writes about the nascent (or not, depending on how you look at it) slow-reading trend. Excerpts:
Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.

The point of the club isn't to talk about literature, but to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted. The group calls itself the Slow Reading Club, and it is at the forefront of a movement populated by frazzled book lovers who miss old-school reading.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn't make it through a book anymore. ...

Slow readers list numerous benefits to a regular reading habit, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize. ... A study published last year in Science showed that reading literary fiction helps people understand others' mental states and beliefs, a crucial skill in building relationships. A piece of research published in Developmental Psychology in 1997 showed first-grade reading ability was closely linked to 11th grade academic achievements.
Read the whole thing (and if the Journal's Web site wants you to subscribe, remember that Google is your friend). Mark me down in the book of the fallen, dear readers. It wasn't until a cross-country trip I took several months ago that I realized how much easily accessible, Web-ready electronic devices had damaged my ability to concentrate. But dead batteries combined with a seat in coach and a brand-new hardcover reminded me how mentally enlivening an unbroken stint with a book can be. Maybe these slow-reading folks are on to something ...

(Picture: CC 2013 by Antoine Roblez)

No comments: