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Slow versus speed reading: which is best?

speed readingRecently the BBC featured a new fad called ‘slow reading’. Apparently this new movement involves groups of people getting together to read things slowly, rather than rushing through. Since my own focus is on devouring written material as quickly and effectively as possible, I was intrigued. I decided to investigate ‘slow reading’ to see if it really did have any advantages over speed reading.

Slow reading

The idea behind slow reading is to recapture the kind of in-depth reading of years gone by. Back in the nineteenth century books were weighty tomes, with long descriptive passages to set the scene – essential in the days before colour photography, television and widespread travel. Think of Dickens, think of Thackeray, think of War and Peace. All these great works were aimed at an audience with spare hours to fill on long winter evenings. Since books were expensive – and since an initial ‘read’ couldn’t absorb all the detail — re-reading books was commonplace.

Today, slow reading is designed to recapture the spirit of that bygone time. The Slow Book Movement began in the USA in 2009. Founded by the novelist Alexander Olchowski, it aims to encourage people to slow down to read books. It is part of the wider Slow Movement – a reaction against the increasing speed of modern society – which was set out in Carl Honoré’s 2004 book In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Changing the Cult of Speed.

Is slow reading best?

There is a lack of research evidence to show that reading more slowly helps in reading comprehension. In fact, studies tend to show a connection between reading very slowly, and lack of fluency and understanding. In children, very slow reading has even been seen as a predictor of dyslexia.

Horses for courses

Nowadays there are still plenty of lengthy books being written. (The Harry Potter series comes to mind, with each successive book becoming longer and longer!) But for most of us, the need to deal with mountains of written material – both online and in printed form —  makes ‘slow reading’ an impossibility, certainly in the workplace.

It seems to me that there is no real argument about which is best. It’s a case of ‘horses for courses’, ie choosing the right tool for the task. Slow reading is ideal for savouring the prose of a novel and reflecting on how its characters develop; whereas in our fast-paced world, modern speed reading training can give us the skills we need to absorb written material rapidly, effectively and efficiently.

Illumine’s course in Effective Speed Reading™ provides skills and techniques to increase your reading speed while actually improving comprehension and retention of material.  (This course features the unique INSEAK® approach to reading, exclusive to Illumine.) Our Fast Reading and Super Memory course uses Mind Mapping to enable you to read faster and remember more.

Find out more about Illumine Training’s Speed Reading courses here

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