How to Read Slow & Grow

How to Read Slow & Grow

by Mike Santoro

Confession: I tried to speed read a book about slowing down (don’t laugh yet, it gets better).

Standard learning protocols these days—Youtube videos from amateurs, Ted Talks from experts, LinkedIn Course Certificate from a professional teacher who trains NASA Astronauts—led to completing a comprehensive personal study on speed-reading tactics. I was very eager to apply the newfound knowledge immediately to prove my mastery (which, spoiler alert!, comes to a screeching crash a little later). Very pridefully, I rummaged through my “when I have time to read” book pile and triumphantly chose the obvious choice…“The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer.

If you’re wondering How ridiculous is that? What was he thinking?, you’re not the only one. However obvious now, the irony didn’t register at the time and I continued marching towards the inevitable cliff.

For the next three days, I foolishly powered through all the expert steps on speed reading. Like playing with a “Slip and slide” on a hot summer day, I skimmed through the chapter so fast that all of its interests pooled together like the cold puddle at the end, leaving me feeling drenched but unsatisfied. Indeed, I had to read it over and over again in order to feel any sustainable enjoyment, just as a kid has to repeat the slide again and again. (This is not REAL reading!)

I even went overboard by drawing three vertical lines on many pages in order to divide the pages and reduce the amount of fixation points for my eyes. (Mayday! Mayday! I lost all radio communication to my brain!)

So what happened? I crashed hard on day three. While speed reading the chapter on slowing down in my reading chair, the words punched me in the gut. I clasped my hands together and confessed my foolishness to my wife, who wisely advised me that perhaps it was a sign that I needed to slow down

Maybe you feel the same way about your life right now. Always trying to do more in less time? Pushing your limits? Packing too many things into your day with no margin? If God (and your spouse) are convicting you to slow down before you crash like I did, then take heart, exhale. You will find hope and encouragement below. 

I hit the eject button on my NASA Rocket Reading Mission, dusted off a single speed bike and found a good downhill chapter to REALLY read. There, I found again a childhood-like joy of taking your foot off the pedal and freely coasting down a hill. Floating from paragraph to paragraph, completely immersed in the author’s story, each page turned propelling you down the hill like having the wind at your back.

Real reading is when you set sail, forget what time it is, and lose sight of the shoreline… just you and a sea of words. A good book captures your imagination, inspires you, gives you hope, brings conviction, and pushes you to action. Authors spin words together with zest and imagery to tickle your senses and tug your heartstrings. Praise God for creating great authors who write quality books that change lives!

Books are beautifully simple, merely words on a page, and yet even very small books can be explosive and powerful. Your life can be changed by one sentence, one thought, one idea, or even one phrase.

Books are among the greatest investments in the world. Where else can you get robust, potentially life-changing advice, or experience the greatest stories of all time?

John Wooden said “…drink deeply of good books, especially the Bible….” 

But you might say…

“Who has the time and energy to read a book these days?” 
“Where do I start?” 
“What books are worth reading?” 
“What books will encourage my faith to grow deeper in knowing God and serving others?” 
“What is a book every Christian should read in their lifetime?”
“Who can help me find a good book?” 
“My time and energy are limited, please just someone give me a book recommendation!”

Take heart. In Part 2 next week, I will share 7 Summer Book Recommendations. In the meantime, look at your bookshelf (or book pile) in your home and find a good book to read slowly…find a cozy chair, take a long deep breath, clear your mind, and enjoy the ride. 

Here are 5 Speed Reading Slow Reading Tips

  1. Early Morning or Late Evening. Try reading before the kids wake up (if you have kids) and after the kids go to sleep. It’s quiet and peaceful. No outside pressures and you have the freedom of uninterrupted time and more focused attention.
  1. Two Pages Per Day. Promise yourself you will read just two pages a day. No matter how busy you are, or how tired you are, you can always find time for slow reading just two pages. Naturally, you will find that many days you will desire to read more and continue for 5, 10, 20, or even 40+ pages. But promise yourself only two and keep this keystone habit going forever. That’s 730 pages per year, or the equivalent of reading 2-3 books per year. Three books per year for the rest of your life will pay off in dividends in wisdom and joy. 
  1. Most Interesting First. Shhhhhh. Don’t tell your elementary teacher…You don’t have to read the entire book from page 1 to page 300 in that order. You can start on page 50. You can read the middle 3 chapters and then the last chapter. Read the most interesting chapters first, especially for non-fiction books. If you’re reading a boring chapter, just skip to the conclusion of the chapter and then move on. But on the GOOD chapters, take your time, go slow, and enjoy the ride.
  1. Write Notes. Try writing a word or phrase in the margin next to each paragraph that summarizes the author’s main point. To do this you will need to slow down and naturally you will pay more attention since you’re committed to write something down at the end of the paragraph. This tactic helps with comprehension (slowing down to understand what to write) and retention (easily look back at a page and read all 4 or 5 summary words or phrases to remember what you read). 

    Also, get your pen flowing freely to underline, star, circle and write “WOW” all over the pages. When you have a page with life changing advice that you want to implement into your life, then try circling the page number. Later you can go back and index all of the circled page numbers on one of the front blank pages so you can easily find it when you might need to read it again. 
  1. Repeat Good Authors. Did you just finish an exceptional book? Did the author capture your attention and compel you with his or her argument or story? Then research what other books that author has written, you will likely enjoy another book by that same author. Check reviews on Amazon and look at the top rated choices. Does the author have a blog or a podcast you can subscribe to? Great authors typically keep producing great content. Once you find a good one, treasure everything you can. 

Bonus Tip…

“Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.” –John Wooden

Mike Santoro is a 7-year member and youth leader at Living Hope Church. He and his wife, Rachel, have three children.