Hello, I'm Kev. 👋🏻

How I learned to love reading again

I read a lot as a kid. I remember reading entire (YA) novels in one sitting. But I stopped reading for fun in High School, and as time went by my reading skills got so bad that I was lucky to sit through a 10 minute reading session. I got stressed and anxious when I started to read, and I sure as hell couldn’t get into the same groove that I did when I was younger. In short, the fault is mine, as I’ve been chipping away at my ability to focus for years now. But I digress.

Sometime last year, I took a look at my long standing, slightly intimidating “want to read” list, and decided that I should get cracking. I wanted to give up in the early days - reading just created more stress for me. I struggled to comprehend short paragraphs and needed to re-read sentences 3-4 times. I managed to convince myself that I just wasn’t a good reader and, for some reason, told myself “if I can’t read as well as others, then I probably shouldn’t read at all.” I was embarassed of being a slow reader, and my embarassment kept me from enjoying one of my favorite passtimes. At this point in my life, I was quite determined to enwrap myself in books again. I know I like to read, I know I want to read more, and I know I’m capable of being a “better” reader. Instead of running away from my fears of being a bad reader, I worked to move past them.

This isn’t a post about how to focus better or a guide providing a solution to a problem. It’s more… a reflection on how I reshaped my relationship with reading, and rekindled my desire to immerse myself in the world of books.

Slow down (if you need to)

Reading - for the most part - isn’t a competitive task. There are no score boards, no prizes, and no rules that dictate the “right” way to read (I guess the rules of whatever language you’re reading in apply, but you get the point friend). There is no reason to compare my reading experience to someone else’s.

For whatever reason, I forgot this. I found myself getting frustrated that I couldn’t read as fast as other people (or at least as fast as I thought they read). I’m a pretty competitive person, so I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise. But I sure as hell don’t need to knock myself down a peg because I’m a slow reader. Just like everyone learns at a different pace, people read at different paces. Plus, just as one can improve their learning abilities, one can improve their reading abilities (speed, retention, comprehension etc) simply by reading more. We’re talking about practice here!

Don’t be scared to re-read sentenes, paragraphs, or pages

One thing that makes my reading experience frustrating is not understanding what I’m reading. What’s the point of reading a book in the first place, if I’m just going to forget the whole thing the second I finish? I might as well not have read the book at all.

When I don’t understand a piece of text, I need to read it again. Sometimes I’ll re-read entire pages just to make sure I have a solid understanding of what’s going on. This enforced my fear / embarassment of being a slow reader, and was probably my main source of frustration. While this problem kind of worked itself out, it helped to view re-reading in a more positive light. Instead of thinking “I need to re-read this because I’m a bad reader,” I can think “I’d like to understand this text better, let me carve out some time to do so.”

Nowadays I mostly re-read text that is very dense, or because it tugs on my emotions so hard that I simply want to “sit in the moment” for just a little longer.

Jot down words you don’t know (and revisit them later)

Language is a beautiful thing. I like to imagine I can abstract say, how an author felt when they were writing, or a deeper understanding of a character / message, by noodling on why someone chose these words to paint their picture. There are a lot of words in the english language and I can confidently say I do not know them all.

Historically, whenever I came across a word I didn’t know, I would just glance past it and use the surrouning text to make an educated guess on what the word meant. Make no mistake, this is an important skill to have. But without knowing the proper definition of a word, it can lose some of it’s power, or charm, or intensity, or wittyness etc.

The added bonus is this helps me better retain what I’m reading. What I’ve been doing for the past couple of months, when I come across a word I don’t know, is:

  1. Jot it down in my journal or note app - whichever is closer.
  2. Forget about it until Friday / Saturday evening.
  3. Spend ~15 minutes (if that) looking up and transcribing new definitions into a wordbank.
  4. Peruse the word bank at random times.

Sometimes it turns into a little review session, and I’ll spend some time thinking about where I found these new words. It’s become one of my favorite weekend activities. :)

To recap, it’s okay to be a slow reader, and it’s okay to take your time to finish a book. If anyone else feels the same way as I once did, I encourage you to embrace your slowness. Don’t let it stop you from enjoying books. Books are simply wonderful. <3