Just before I started college, friends and relatives began questioning me about my would-be major.
“English,” I’d say with a smile.
Most would make a non-committal nod or gesture, thinking to themselves, “What will she do with a degree in English?”
But not my Aunt Susie.
“You’ll need to read a lot of books. Are you ready?” she asked.
“Of course!” I replied a bit too quickly.
Susie went on to discuss the volume of books that I would be expected to read in the coming years and the task began to seem a bit daunting. Then, she explained the awesome-ness that is speed reading.
Susie had taken a class that taught her how to “push read” so that instead of reading letters and words, she was able to read lines of text at a time.
So, in that summer of 2002, while my classmates were enjoying their last few breaths of freedom without college classes and essays, I enrolled in a speed reading course. I spent hours practicing reading with my finger under the words I was reading, pushing myself to read more words at a time. By the end of the summer, I was reading groups of words at a time.
Seriously. I spent every free minute reading as a kid and was a well practiced reader, (spoiler alert: I grew up to be an English teacher) but I spent that summer re-training my brain how to read. It wasn’t how I had pictured spending the summer after graduating, but as Susie predicted, it was well worth the effort.
I used the strategy throughout the rest of my academic career. In graduate school, I could read multiple volumes of Faulkner in a day, and was able to push through volumes of articles regarding the complex socioeconomic development of Indonesia as a result of Japanese Imperialism at the start of the last century. (Say that 5 times fast!) As an English teacher, the benefits of being able to speed read when I want to helps me to save countless hours.
Nearly 15 years later, that summer class continues to pay dividends.
So, instead of asking kids at graduation parties what they plan what to do with their degrees, take a note from my Aunt Susie; ask them how they plan to get through their readings.