Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Need for Speed

Confession:  I'm a recovering speed reader.  When I was in elementary school, we lived for a few years in a town without a library. (GASP.  I know.  It was hard.)  Once a week, we would drive twenty-five minutes or so to the nearest out-of-town library to pick up some new books.  I would pick out my limit of two books, we would get some groceries, and we would head home.  There were many days where I would have finished or nearly finished at least one of my books by the time we pulled in the driveway. By this point, I had already read everything in our house that was remotely age-appropriate, and of course, I wanted to spend quite a bit of my time reading. My poor mother was pulling her hair out trying to keep my in reading material.

At the height of my speed reading, I'm pretty sure that I would just read down through the center of the page.  I've still been known to skip the first paragraph on the page as I'm flying through books.  Obviously, I was missing out of quite a bit of the text, which also lead, not shockingly, to comprehension issues.  Somewhere in late middle school and high school, I managed to slow down enough to curb the comprehension problems, but there are times when the need for speed remains.

I have recently read some truly fantastic books, books where I wanted to savor every beautifully crafted sentence and plot twist.  (Three come to mind immediately:  Navigating Early, The Center of Everything, and The Water Castle.)  I started these books doing just that, reading slowly and taking it all in.  However, as the plot grew thicker and picked up speed, so did I.  There's a point in each story where it's like the peak of the roller coaster.  You start careening toward the end of the ride, and it's impossible to get off or to slow down. Were there lines and beauty to be treasured in the final treasures of each of these?  Most likely, but in my hurry to JUST KNOW what happened, I probably missed them. 

I think about my students, especially my high-flying first grade readers.  I can see myself in them, finishing books one after the other without much thought or savoring.  I want to tell them to slow down and take it all in, but there's a balance.  I also want them to know what it's like to get sucked into the story to the point where they lose control of their own reading.  I guess it's about knowing yourself as a reader, and knowing that while you can never read a book again for the first time, you can always read a book again.

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