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The Layered Rewards of "Slow Reading"

In a culture that expects everything on demand; the double layered reward of slow reading goes beyond the knowledge encased in the book; it trickles down to character.




We have been binge watching one of our favorite BBC period dramas. Oh the joy! All at once, no waiting, and the story unfolds before us without interruption. As we watch it this time- gobbling it up at our own discretion- or rather lack thereof, I am reminded of the very first time we watched it. We saw it as it was released on PBS. Slowly. One hour at a time, waiting a full week for each new episode and then a full year between seasons!


Oh the frustration of delay! But the glow of that time is still with us. In hindsight, the suspense only served to sweeten. There was something special about that time, about the waiting. Of course we complained, but there was a joy to be had in the waiting that can’t be had in binging. It is good this time - but not like the first.


It reminds me of Charlotte Mason and her prescription on the slow reading of books. Is there a connection between our disenchanted binge and the truth of her method? As we look at her schedules, we see that many books are listed on the schedule only once a week! Can there possibly be fruit in this idea?


As a young mom I felt, the more of a good thing the better. If we hit on something the kids were into- why wait? Ms. Mason’s advice seemed counterintuitive. But as the years have rolled by, I have seen wisdom tucked into yet another nook of her philosophy. The wait, the suspense, heightens the anticipation. The mulling over of possible plot outcomes, the revisiting of characters and previous events via narration solidifies the connection, prolongs, and strengthens the ties that would bind. The books we remember, the books that became a part of us collectively and individually are the books we spent the most time with.


Before I met Ms. Mason, I felt like the delays were a fault. I thought I needed to be more “with it”- get through more books faster so that I could post pictures of my kids standing by their year-end stack of books that towered over their heads! Reading Charlotte Mason’s thoughts gave me pause- and I as looked back over the years, I saw the truth was there before me. Slow, consistent reading was the key to connection.


Many homeschoolers use the same books. A good book is a good book! What is different about Charlotte Mason is the use of those good books. She doesn’t rush us, or pressure us- but gives us permission to savor; time to digest, to connect. She encourages us to delay in order to entice; to say no in order to whet. This is a life after all and not a race.


In a culture that expects everything on demand - instant gratification; the double layered reward of slow reading goes beyond the knowledge encased in the book it trickles down to character. -No- is not a bad word. -To wait- is not a punishment. Ultimately, to be able to tell oneself -no- is beautiful thing. For them to not just hear it, not just know it, but feel the truth of it. That is education.


As we approach our Christmas break, we are finishing our family read aloud. As I write, we have one more day of exams and one chapter left in the book. I could have finished it today. They were begging- literally falling on the floor begging... and bribing! Four high schoolers and a 6th grader all in one accord! As I placed the ribbon and closed the book, I could feel the approval of Ms. Mason as I said no. In taking from them- I am giving to them. I am giving them permission to savor, an opportunity to learn to wait. I have given them the beautiful lost gift of longing. I had to hide the book! It’s in my purse, I am carrying it around on my person for protection! How sweet tomorrow morning will be. How bright their future when they can tell themselves no- and feel the joy of it.


Slow reading. It’s not just the book, but the proper use of it. It is not just the knowledge it holds but the character the proper method can develop. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.


~S.Timothy 2020~

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