This week I will continue on the topic of reading. Recently as I was reading news on the internet I came across an article from a recent issue of The Atlantic. The title read , “How Reading Makes Us More Human”. It is written by Karen Swallow Prior. I have the link to it listed under the reflection so that you can read it as well. I encourage you to do so as I am only touching on a few points that personally stood out to me.
The first major idea that struck me about reading is that reading is one activity that differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. When was the last time at a zoo you saw a monkey reading a cookbook on recipes with bananas? Or have you seen an elephant reading a book on how to increase memory skills? Reading is uniquely a human activity.
From the title of this blog post comes another thought from the article to ponder. She speaks of deep reading and defines it as “…slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity…”. The contrast to that is decoding reading which is “the mere decoding of words…”. The writer states that most reading that is done is of the decoding type. She especially points this is the sort of reading done in schools. It makes sense that in schools and I would say even work settings, most of the reading we do is to decode so we can process as fast as we can the basic meaning of what we are reading. Most workers working on reports and students are under the gun, so with the little time in their schedules they want to speed read to glean information for tests and reports. So I would say I have and still do, my share of decoding reading.
Still my joy of reading rests in taking my time through a book on a topic I deeply enjoy. This is the time where I want to go into the depths of what the author is discussing. When I read like this a nonfiction book I find myself mentally having a discussion with the author. Sometimes questioning what the author is saying or excitedly agreeing with the author is part of this reading process for me. With a fiction book I always take it slow so I can use my imagination to place myself into the story and gain a feel for the places and persons in the story. I had never thought of it as deep reading. Two words stand out to me in the definition she stated, “Slow, immersive…” . In our busy world this type of reading can be a helpful de-stressor. Slowing the mind down to enjoy the story to the fullest. Slow down to understand better the topic you are wanting to understand better. This slowing down allows the mind to then be immersed, defined as “Involve oneself deeply in a particular interest”. I feel this allows us to enjoy the deep joy of reading.
Karen Swallow Prior also expands on deep reading showing that it taps into the depths of our humanness on the spiritual plane. In doing this she quotes Eugene H. Peterson, a prolific writer and poet, who is most well known for being the writer behind The Message paraphrase of the Bible. She lists this quote of his about reading, “reading is an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul – eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.” This quote reveals the joy of reading in the power of story, the growth we gain from reading others ideas and concepts. Reading is a powerful force to bring a deeper understanding of our fellow travelers on life’s journey. This type of reading we can improve our own creativity and critical thinking to make the best choices possible for living a more than ok life.
So as you look at reading understand that it is alright to be a decoder as seeking meaning and analyzing data of what we read is important in our work and school. If the boss wants a report done in a week it will not help on your next review to say, “Boss, can I have a month to read through this information I have found. I would like to slowly immerse myself and deeply enjoy the data”. The Boss will probably say that we can easily be replaced if we can’t turn in the report in a week. However the article is an important reminder that we need to find time in our lives to rejuvenate our minds and spirit with deep reading as well. As a Bookhead the article reminds me that one way to help people enjoy reading is to encourage them towards deep reading.
Reflection -- Do you take time in your weekly schedule for some deep reading? What is a fiction book you deeply enjoyed and learned from the story new meanings or understandings for your life?