For most of my life, I worried about being a slow reader. As with so many other things, it seemed like being faster was the preferred option because it meant you could get more stuff read (whether it be text books or novels) and because our society just seems to prefer things to be fast, fast, fast!
A few weeks ago, I noticed a bunch of random things about reading faster pop-up in various corners of the internet. One of them specified that you needed to teach yourself to read without subvocalizing, which is the internal voice that sounds out the words as you read. I was surprised by this. I can’t imagine being able to recall anything on a page without hearing that voice (and, in fact, I have since read that reading without subvocalization can decrease comprehension). I also can’t imagine enjoying a book without subvocalization.
I remember a friend (maybe Joanne, the poet) once telling me that I wasn’t a slow reader, I just took my time with the words. I can’t remember her exact wording, but the implication was that I liked to savour what I was reading. I think that was the first time I started to think less about how I read compared to everyone else and more about how I read.
That voice in my head rolls the words around to find the right meaning (blue: the colour or the mood? light or dark? pure or more of a teal or indigo?) and finds the right imagery so that I can “see” what’s happening. The stories I enjoy the most are evocative enough for me to imagine what the author sees, feels and smells. Every book becomes a movie or a dream.
I like that I can see what I read. I like that I can imagine what’s not described by the author (the sea is rough, but what kind of rough and how dark were the clouds and how much did that bird not mentioned struggle in the wind?). I like that I can take all of that, roll it around in my head, imagine other paths the author might have taken or what bit players in the story might have done later, and meld all the ideas from all the books I’ve read together to find similarities, differences, or even other possibilities.
So, take your fast reading, if you like, but I’m going to stick with my slow and often distracted reading. Maybe I won’t get around to reading half the books I want to read, but the ones I do read will be appreciated and savoured with every inch of my being.