I have always been a slow reader.
This is a big problem. First, I love to read. Reading fiction gets me involved in someone else’s life. Sometimes, it takes me to another place. Other times, it can shed light on the place where I live — in Melbourne now — or have lived, in New York City, Boston or Italy. Reading literature can completely shift my perspective on things I think I’m familiar with and change how I look at the world, simply through the innovative use of language.
Fiction can make me feel that I am not alone, or, conversely, how many other ways there are to live. And getting really stuck into a novel brings me a kind of relaxation I can’t achieve any other way.
Difficulties reading non-fiction keep my world very small. I have so many avenues I’d like to explore: Why the world faces the many problems it does, the inside story of someone else’s real life, how my favourite songs came to be, and so much more. Then there’s just plain wanting to have things to say.
Anyone who reads much at all would be flummoxed at the prospect of summarising why reading is important and would be able to name many more reasons than I have.
I said earlier that I have always been a slow reader, and I meant it. When I was in high school, my mother tried to help by arranging for me to see an eye doctor who specialised in training eyes. He identified that fusion was part of my problem and gave me exercises to get the vision of my two eyes to converge.
One exercise used a stereopticon — you looked at cards with two identical images side by side and focused your eyes through the device until they formed a single image.
Another involved bringing my pointer finger (pointer finger? When was the last time you described your index finger that way?) from a distance toward my nose, keeping my eyes focused on it all the way.
On the reading side of things, he gave me exercises to teach me to read for ideas instead of one word at a time. He also gave me exercises in reading comprehension and active reading — learning to approach non-fiction material with questions in mind, scanning the text to see where it is heading.
It probably doesn’t help that I read in bed and don’t start until I’m just about ready to sleep. Or that I treat reading as a prize I earn after accomplishing things during the day when I’m more alert and could actually make some progress.
The result of all this is that I don’t get very far in my reading when I do manage to sit down and that keeps me from becoming very engaged. That has the knock-on effect that I sit down to read less often. That, in turn, results in me forgetting what was happening in the story and who is who in the book. I get confused about what I’ve already been told but now forgotten, and what remains to be revealed. So then I have to start over, or at least go back some pages. That makes me less inspired to read. As you might expect,, when I do get involved in a book, my pace speeds up.
As my daughter who whizzes through books points out, I don’t give myself time to read because I think I should be doing other things. But reading is one of the most important things I could be doing with my time, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned and all the others that people who read more could name.
Is it too late to make a new year’s resolution?