Savoring Books: The Benefit of Reading Slowly

Question: AmblesideOnline doesn't have as many books as some programs, is this to emphasize quality over quantity? Is there an advantage to reading a book at a leisurely pace?

Answer: Speedy-reader kids have no trouble reading . . . readers in just a few days if you let them, but then they are off onto something else, and there is little time for the book to really make an impression on them. ...there was no time to really contemplate or think through the character/moral aspects of books. When you are reading a chapter per day, you read pretty much at the "let's find out what happens next" level.

Two years ago, I deliberately decided to re-schedule our school books so that the pace matched the pace described by Charlotte Mason. So, we were reading 6-7 books (maybe more) at a time, but they were read only once or twice per week. We took the whole 12-week term to read through a book that would have been finished in 2 weeks at the (faster) pace. Was there a difference? YES!

My son's overall memory for the material in the book increased many times. Because he had to recall each week what had happened, he "reviewed" the book over a long period of time. He had more time to think about the book. During this past year, he read through Oliver Twist, and I think it might have taken more than 3 months. He lived that book. It made a tremendous impression on him, much deeper than reading it quickly, just to find out the story, would have done.

As an avid reader (and I'm sure plenty of you can relate), it has been my life-long habit to "gobble" books. I like to re-read, and I know that I often encounter whole scenes or events that I missed the first time, because I was reading so fast! My kids are naturally inclined to be book-gobblers, too. And honestly, I let them read the way they want to with their free-reading books. But for school, I'm hoping they will learn to appreciate taking time to really savor and "own" the books that they read. In fact...this is the only way to really read books of real depth and substance.

Now, lest I get into trouble, let me refer to our authority in these matters--"Pretty books for the schoolroom age follow those for the nursery, and, nursery and schoolroom outgrown, we are ready for 'Mudie's' lightest novels; the succession of 'pretty books' never fails us; we have no time for works of intellectual fibre, and we have no more assimilating power than has the schoolgirl who feeds upon cheese-cakes. Scott is as dry as dust, and even Kingsley is 'stiff.' We remain, though in another sense than that of the cottage dame, 'poor readers' all our days." (vol. 5, p. 214.)

And another quote:"We hear of 'three books a week' as a usual thing and rather a matter of pride. But this, again, comes of our tendency to depreciate knowledge, and to lose sight of its alimentary character. If we perceive that knowledge, like bread, is necessary food, we see also that it must be taken in set portions, fitly combined, duly served, and at due intervals, in order to induce the digestive processes without which, knowledge, like meat, gives us labour rather than strength." (vol. 5, p. 382.)

I've said this before, but I'll suggest it again. Give this method a chance. Experiment this way--choose two books, and allow your child to read one at the rate of a chapter a day, and the other at no more than a chapter or two per week, taking at least 2 months to finish the book. At the end of the two months, ask for narrations from both books. You will get much more detailed and complete narrations from the book that was read slowly than the one that was read quickly several weeks ago. By letting your child "live" with the book longer, you are giving him a chance to "digest" what the book has to offer.

And yes--there's no point in reading "light novels" this way. You have to offer something of substance that is truly worthwhile to be read like this.

I know it seems to go against popular wisdom, but it really is worth a try.

~Karen Glass

"Read much, but do not read many books." --Roman maxim

I have to admit that the thought of taking so much time to read a book was not something I really thought was a good idea, when I first started reading about CM and AO. Well, I was wrong. We are in our last week of Paddle to the Sea and I have spent time pondering it as has my dd. If we would have read it fast and been done quickly, it would be out of our minds now and on to something else. We have had time to savor it and think about it and talk about it.

I have slowed down some of our other readings to enjoy them more and not rush. Some books are best savored and gobbled.


We juuuussst finished our school year (hallelujah!), and here's a quick summary. Across a 12-week period, my 11 yr old was reading from 11 different books himself, and my 8 yr old was reading from 7 or 8, plus we had a few read-alouds going.

You really have to try this to see how well it works. :-) That's helpful, isn't it? I spread most of their books across a 12-week span, which means that they are reading no more than 1-2 chapters per week, usually, from any given book. That gives them 12 weeks to think about the story. Every time they pick up the book and begin reading, they have to "orient" themselves, and recall what has gone before. They narrate their readings, and do copywork from these books as well, across the 12 weeks. They know these books. Now imagine that I took the same 11 books for my 11yo, for example, and had him read them at the rate of one per week, one after the other. He would mentally "stuff himself" with the book while he was reading it, and he might think about it a lot during that one week, but then he'd get a new book the next week, and would be too busy with that one to think about the book from last week. (For those who are wondering, this is the way Sonlight works!) At the end of the 12 weeks, how well do you think he would remember the books from weeks 1 and 2?

When a child "lives with" a book over a period of time, it becomes much more a part of them. They have time to form a relationship with it, and with the subject matter at hand. We've been doing this for a long time, and my kids thrive on it.


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