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What Is Slow Reading?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 23, 2024
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True to its name, slow reading is a type of reading that focuses on reading slowly. Sometimes referred to as close reading or deep reading, slow reading is opposite speed reading in that the reader engages in a slower, more deliberate reading. The two techniques share similarities, though, where comprehension and retaining information are concerned. The practice of reading in an unhurried and deliberate way is often linked to the study of certain kinds of texts, such as those in literary and philosophical fields, though some view the technique as one related to the Slow Movement. For the most benefit, readers should choose the technique, or reading pace, that best suits their own needs.

Slow reading differs in an obvious way with speed reading, in that the pace is much slower and more concentrated. Still, the two types of reading share similarities. Both types of reading focus on comprehension and retaining the information the reader reads. Speed reading is a technique that helps readers read and retain more information in a faster way than they normally would read. Slow reading, on the other hand, focuses on reading and retaining that information at a slower pace.

Generally, slow reading is thought of as a reading technique designed to help readers more fully understand and value a particular text, such as a literary or philosophical piece. Some sources, however, believe the development of slow reading is an offshoot of, or in some way related to, the Slow Movement. The Slow Movement refers to a cultural movement toward a slower-paced lifestyle or life pace. Although it is not technically organized or controlled by any other institution, the Slow Movement has gained popularity among individuals who value the concept of experiencing life in what might be a richer and fuller way by engaging in a slower pace. The Slow Movement represents several areas of life including food, parenting, travel, art, and money.

Overall, whether they are reading for study or pleasure, readers should choose the kind of reading that works best for them. For example, if a reader engages in speed reading but can’t seem to comprehend or retain the information as well as when he reads more slowly, he should try slow reading. Likewise, if a reader tends to get distracted or forget what he’s read when he engages in slower, close reading, he might be better suited for speed reading. Of course, some readers engage in neither slow nor speed reading, and instead read at whatever pace is most comfortable for them. For many readers, this pace falls somewhere between fast and slow reading, and can change depending on the material being read.

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Discussion Comments

By bythewell — On Sep 22, 2014

@Fa5t3r - The solution might be to read a book twice, if you really want to be able to concentrate on the writing rather than the story. I always thought I wouldn't like reading a book twice because I already knew what was going to happen and had basically spoiled all the "twists" for myself, but, honestly, I actually like it better the second time around.

Knowing what is coming makes the reading all the more rich when it's a good author, because you can see more of their intent and foreshadowing. That's particularly true of a very long book, because it's impossible to remember every single detail while you're reading it even if you're reading slowly.

You don't have to read it again right away, but if you wait a while and then try it, I think a good book is even better the second time around.

By Fa5t3r — On Sep 22, 2014

@croydon - I can't read aloud, because I have much less comprehension when I do. I find it completely interrupts the flow of the story for me.

I guess I stick with slow reading when I want to concentrate on the writing and just read at my normal speed when I want to be lost in a story. If I'm having to constantly pull myself out of the story to make myself slow down then I enjoy it less, even if I get more out of it.

By croydon — On Sep 21, 2014

One way I find that tends to help me slow down when I'm reading is to read the text aloud, even if it's very quietly. Even when I'm trying to be a slow reader, I tend to skim read parts that aren't action based, especially if I'm excited about the book. I guess I just want to find out what happens next.

But I actually really love good writing, including descriptions of scenery and things like that, which are the parts I skip when I'm reading too fast.

Reading aloud means I have to concentrate on every single word and stops me from skipping any of it.

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