Slow reading

Slow reading is about reading at a reflective pace.

There are many different kinds of reading, both fast and slow. Fast reading is greatly facilitated by digital technology. For a time, we thought that digital technology would replace books altogether. We were wrong about that. Print and books are more prevalent than ever. We are in the middle of a cultural shift that is still learning the proper place of digital technology.

Fast information is terrific when we need a quick, rough answer, but like fast food it often leaves one hungering for something more substantial. Digital technology is terrific for finding information and reading short snippets, but print and books lend themselves to slow reading, a form of reading that is more pleasant and often is the only way to really understand a concept.

Many types of reading are improved by reading slowly: literature with rich dimensions that might be missed if read too quickly; local stories that engage our personal memories; and research materials that require sustained thought for understanding.

Slow readers might only read a page or two at a time, reading and re-reading until they apprehend the experience or meaning represented in the text.

Slow readers often enjoy a sensual relationship with their information – noticing the well-selected binding, paper, illustrations and type; sub-vocalizing or reading the text aloud to hear it.

Slow readers prefer books over screens, for the superior readability of paper, but also for the fixity of print. Print captures ideas and gives them a stillness that allows the reader to open deeply to them. The binding of a book captures an experience or idea at particular space and time. When the reading is complete, you place it with satisfaction on your bookshelf.

Slow reading is an art form, a third way of reading not just for information or entertainment. The reader calls upon creative faculties and is changed in the process of reading. It has both the serious purpose of reading non-fiction to better understand things, and the playful imagination of reading fiction to see things in new ways. There is no artifact of this art form; no book, no painting, no sculpture; but like all good art, the act of slow reading exercises our imagination to develop interiority, our psychological framework.

Slow reading is a community event, restoring connections between ideas and people. The continuity of relationships through reading is experienced when we borrow books from friends; when we read long stories to our kids till they fall asleep; when we take turns reading a play aloud with our teenagers; when we share what we are reading with family and friends over dinner.

Slow reading is closely associated with the larger Slow movement and its theme of locality. Not only do we change our relationship with time, but with space too. Slow readers seek out local content, local readings and encourage micro-publishing. These acts not only provide an audience for local writers, but nurture diversity that replenishes global media when its formulaic content runs dry.

Slow readers support local libraries as a public space in the overwhelming presence of commercial space. Libraries are a shelter and turning point for those with few resources; a place for entrepreneurs to get started; a hall for public discourse among citizens interested in social change.

Slow reading is a form of resistance, challenging a hectic culture that requires speed reading of volumes of information fragments. Slow reading is therapeutic as it restores a sense of well-being. It enriches our private lives and better equips us for the world. Slow reading is recognition of the intrinsically worthy act of reading. It is good for our minds, our emotional health, our communities and planet.

© 2007 John Miedema. Used by permission. John is the author of Slow Reading, a concise review of research on the benefits of reflective reading. He publishes his reviews and essays at (This essay originally appeared on here.)