Ray Pennings points to the Slow Reading Movement mentioned in the Guardian. Slow is the new fast. John Newkirk, a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire, has some helpful advice to help us slow read:
- Memorizing: Memorization is often called “knowing by heart,” and for good reason. Memorizing enables us to possess a text in a special way.
- Reading Aloud: Reading aloud is a regular activity in elementary classrooms, but it dies too soon. Well-chosen and well-read texts are one of the best advertisements for literacy. By reading aloud, teachers can create a bridge to texts that students might read; they can help reluctant readers imagine a human voice animating the words on the page.
- Attending to Beginnings: Writers often struggle with their beginnings because they are making so many commitments; they are establishing a voice, narrator, and point of view that are right for what will follow. These openings often suggest a conflict. They raise a question, pose a problem, create an “itch to be scratched.” Readers need to be just as deliberate and not rush through these carefully constructed beginnings. As teachers, we can model this slowness.
- Rethinking Time Limits on Reading Tests: We currently give students with disabilities additional time to complete standardized tests; we should extend this opportunity to all students. Tests place too high a premium on speed, and limits are often set for administrative convenience rather than because of a reasoned belief in what makes good readers.
- Annotating a Page: In this activity, students probe the craft of a favorite writer. They pick a page they really like, photocopy it, and tape the photocopy to a larger piece of paper so they have wide margins in which they can make notations. Their job is to give the page a close reading and mark word choices, sentence patterns, images, dialogue—anything they find effective. A variation of this activity is a quote and comment assignment in which students copy out passages by hand that they find particularly meaningful and then comment on why they chose those passages. Copying a passage slows us down and creates an intimacy with the writer’s style—a feel for word choice and for how sentences are formed.
- Reading Poetry: Even in this age of efficiency and consumption, it is unlikely that anyone will reward students for reading a million poems. Poems can’t be checked off that way. They demand a slower pace and usually several readings—and they are usually at their best when read aloud.
- Savoring Passages: Children know something that adults often forget—the deep pleasure of repetition, of rereading, or of having parents reread, until the words seem to be part of them.