This morning, I read this fascinating article.
Reading has always been an interesting thing for me. As a youngster, I would read all the time. My mother would buy my brother and I comic books when she was shopping and she would take us for a walk downtown to exchange books at the Public Library. We were allowed to check out two books weekly. I would typically check out a Hardy Boys book and one other that the librarian would put on display when you’d walk into the space.
I figure that if someone who knew books felt that they were important enough to put up front, they were important enough to read. Perhaps my love and respect for teacher-librarians started there.
In addition to this, there was of course book exchange protocols in our elementary school. At secondary school, reading became different. It was no longer reading for enjoyment but reading for a purpose – typically assigned as part of classwork in English and French classes. I didn’t seem to retain that type of reading as well as recreational reading. I actually started worrying about this thinking that there might be something wrong with me. I’d much rather read a mathematics question than any of the books that were supposed to read.
I don’t know how or why but there came a time when I learned about speedreading. In one of our shopping trips to London, I went into a Coles Bookstore and bought a book that claimed to teach me how to speedread. Looking back now, I didn’t fully appreciate the concept of buying a book to teach me how to read a book. I recall going through the book quickly one weekend and getting the basics and started to apply the techniques to the assigned reading. After a while, it really did seem to make me read faster and retain a little more. It all involved chunking of content and not necessarily read every word.
It struck a note with another Twitter user.
I don’t recall it ever getting me better marks but I got through my reading quicker. The whole technique that I used made me realize the amount of extra noise that would be in an author’s work. The goal was to focus on the important part of the message and skip over everything else. There was also a technique that made me look at an entire line on the page rather than moving my eyes and picking things off, word by word.
By today’s standards for reading, the concepts that I taught myself and used would be considered primitive, I suppose but it served me well. Until I ended up having to read mathematics and computer programming. Attending to detail becomes so important there – as we know messing up with one semi-colon or index can change things completely.
If you clicked through and read the article above, you’ll notice the header with all of the images and letters standing out. It’s so much distraction. Once you get into the meat of the article, the speedreading techniques kick in.
This particular article is relatively easy to read since it appears without too many distractions. Flip over to other pages or your local newspaper and it gets difficult. At times, it appears as though the actual story is the last thing of importance to the authors. They seem to be more concerned about getting advertising into your view.
How many times have you started to read an article to be interrupted in the middle by a popup or some fancy advertisement for something or a link to yet another story that you might be interested in.
If you follow this blog, you know that I’ve written about advertisement blockers on many occasions. Some browsers like Opera have it built into the browser while others will allow you to install an extension to keep the advertisement away from stealing your attention. I don’t mind the odd little piece of advertising that’s not intrusive. But, there’s a move in some parts to having really aggressive advertising because, well, someone figures that that is more important than reading and understanding the content.
I make no apologies for keeping an ad blocker active these days. It reminds me of step one for speedreading – get rid of the distractions and focus on the message.