Monday, March 23, 2015

I'm Alive and I Talk About Skim Reading

A Splash of Ink has experienced quite a lull this past month. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have heard from me, but I haven't been posting. I've been writing, but not writing anything particularly fun. As any university student knows, the last month of the semester (i.e. November and March) are crazy. All the papers are due and all the tests are happening. So that's where I've been. I don't believe in apologizing about my blog, but I wanted to give you guys a bit of an explanation.

But thankfully, I'm back! Although, the posting might continue to be a bit spotty over the next few weeks.
Imagine this is your brain when you're skim reading
Today I want to share a few thoughts on skim reading -by skim reading I mean reading quickly through passages and skipping over others entirely. I'm writing a paper on it for one of my English classes, so I've been mulling it over.

Do you skim read?

I never ever skim read novels. Even if they're incredibly boring, I either quit or if I really must know the ending, I suffer till I get to the end. I have friends who can just skim over the boring parts, and I wish I could too, but I never can. I'm too afraid I'll miss a crucial part of the story.

However, with non-fiction, it's a completely different story (no pun intended, haha). A non-fiction book has to be really good for me to read every word. If you've been reading SOI for awhile, you'll know that I am a strong defender of reading non-fiction and every once and awhile write a post featuring some non-fic books. Here's a secret: with the exceptions of memoirs (or any other linear work), I rarely read the entire book. On average I read about 70-90% of a non-fiction book. I skim read.

And I wondered to myself why do I read so differently in fiction and non-fiction genres.

With fiction, I intend to get lost in the story. I certainly have expectations on what the story will be about, but I don't skip over parts that don't fit into my expectations. For example, if I want to read a romance novel, I don't skip over all the scenes with the best friend or the sidekick because they aren't romantic. That sounds utterly ridiculous. As a reader, I think I'm aware that all the scenes matter in creating the main character. How the MC behaves with the friend will add meaning to how they behave with the love interest. With fiction, I'm more aware of how all the parts build on each other to send a common message and create the story.

With non-fiction, I come to the text with an agenda to fill; I know what I want to get from the text. For example, if I pick up a how-to-write book I'm going to skip over the dialogue sections and go straight to description, because that's where I need instruction. I know what areas I want to read about and what I want to "learn" from the text. Sometimes this is a conscious act and other times it happens more organically as I read. I seem to value the building up of book as I do in fiction.

I don't think that skim reading is necessarily bad. In fact, when you have a lot of assigned reading and not enough time, sometimes you have to skim read for the main ideas. But it's important to acknowledge that skim reading doesn't give you the fullest reading of a text. In my experience, when I bring my own agenda to a text, I close myself off to the bigger and better ideas that a text could be offering; that is the danger of skim reading. 

How about you? Are you a skim reader? Do you support it? Have you been "forced" to skim read by reading obligations (ARC reviews, school, book club etc.)? I'm really interested to hear your experiences in the comments!

Reading: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Listening: Rusty Clanton
Watching: Gilmore Girls

20 comments:

  1. Great post! Whenever I skim read, I always feel incredibly detached to the story and can't get back into it. So if I do that to a book, chances are I'm not going to finish it.

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    1. Thanks! I feel the EXACT same way. What's the point of even finishing it?

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  2. I try my best not to skim-read. Becuase, like Julia said, I begin to feel detached from the story. Eventually I am just reading to get through to the end and I don't end up reaping much benefit. However, if I am in a time crunch and I can kinda tell the gist of a few paragrpahs and realize that I don't need it (Example: guy begins to describe whale in a funny way. I understand that it is important about the whales anatomy and everything, but I decide I don't want the details) I can skim over and jump right back in afterwards. It is a sort of art I think : )

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    1. I think you hit the nail on the head by calling it an art. Skim reading isn't all bad, but you do have to learn where you can skip stuff and where you need to pay attention.

      Also, I want to know the rest of the story about the guy describing the whale, haha.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I rarely read non-fiction, but honestly I think I skim a lot of things. LIke the boring parts. Or an embarrassing part. I think this is partly why I get confused a lot of times. I'm trying to really slow down or reread parts, but it's hard. Awesome post Sunny! Hope you get through all your papers and exams and stuff!

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    1. Thanks! I hope that I get through it all too!

      I think rereading is an excellent strategy. Even though I read every word, I sometimes find myself confused when I'm not focused while reading. There's no shame in flipping back a few pages to check a detail or rereading a page over.

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  4. I'm the same way; I don't skim read an actual novel, but when I'm reading non-fiction I usually have a study guide or something, and I realize that to take notes I don't actually need to read most of what is going on.

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    1. "I realize that to take notes I don't actually need to read most of what is going on"
      Haha, yes. I've so been there. Also, I'm horrible for just quoting the conclusion of an article because that's when they're the most concise about their information.

      Thanks for commenting:)

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  5. I can skim-read if I want to, but I find that I barely do, fiction or otherwise. If I'm in a situation where I have to skim, I can relatively well, but I enjoy reading word by word.

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    1. Reading every word is definitely more enjoyable (unless it's a boring assigned reading) and beneficial.

      Thanks for stopping by SOI!

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  6. I hate skim reading, whether it's with nonfiction or fiction. I really think that for me to fully understand a book and feel like I have done the book justice, I need to read every word. I think this has also been caused by school because sometimes I have teachers that give quizzes or tests with the trickiest tiniest details in a text. So now I have to read everything and read it closely. The one time I will skim is if I accidentally stumble upon inappropriate content in a book. Luckily, that doesn't happen often to me, but on the rare occasion it does, I skim all the way.

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    1. Oh yes, I've definitely had teachers who test on random (meaningless?) details. When it comes to school, it can be tricky knowing what's okay to skim and what needs a deep read.

      Sounds like you have a good system! Thanks for commenting:)

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  7. Ohh, yes, *raises hand guiltily* I am a skim reader. I often skim "boring" books, or books I really REALLY want to not finish, but I can't not finish them because I feel totally undone. I don't even know why! But I skim a lot. I think that's why I also manage to read so much. Sometimes I feel like I lose bits in the book, but mostly I'm fine and I feel like I DO get a lot of the book (maybe not some minute details?) but it does make me want to reread later. xD I often read really really fast if I'm super excited abou tthe book and then I put it on my to-be-read-again-slower stack. hehe.

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    1. That's really interesting that you read faster when it's a book you like. I find that I always try to savor books that I really love and try to make them last longer.

      I totally understand what you mean about not not being able to finish a book. A book has to be REALLY bad for me not to care about the ending.

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  8. You know, Hank Green once mentioned in a youtube video (though don't ask me which one, i have no memory) that part of any reading experience is glossing over some words and lingering on others. Even for people who subvocalize while they read, some words - like articles (a, the) or "of" "and" - get naturally deemphasized when reading through a sentence. I think skimming may be something we are all guilty of whether or not we realize it - I know I've had to go back and re-read sections of a book because I've stopped at a point and said "Wait, what?"

    But I never feel bad about skimming over entire sections. I never would have gotten through Moby Dick without that. As long as the place where you pick back up makes sense, I don't think it's that big of a deal.

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    1. I think you (or Hank Green, haha) are totally right. I always notice the words that I skim over unconsciously when I have to read out loud.

      Thanks for stopping by SOI!

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  9. Hey, Sunny! I definitely DON'T skim read almost everything. Sometimes I wish I wouldn't worry about reading every little thing and just skim. :) Lol, I think I'm getting better at reading quicker and that's going to be so needed later on in life. Blessings!

    http://teensliveforjesus.blogspot.ru

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    1. I definitely wish I could read faster too, but I don't want to have to comprise content comprehension for spend.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  10. Oh my gosh, I skimmed this post and then I had to force myself to stop.

    I'm a skimmer. I HAVE to skim or I get bored and it isn't the book's fault. My reading time is like 3 hours and I can read a book in one sitting. If I'm skimming and the book is STILL boring, it probably means, it's the book and not me. Sometimes, I'll actually read; like on tests and such but for maximum enjoyment... SKIMMING!

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    1. Haha, how ironic!

      I'm glad that you found a method that works for you. When it comes to reading, everybody has their own unique way of doing it. And if it helps with your enjoyment, I say keep it up!

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