Read more books; with a “studying mindset” – Is there a better way to learn?

I recently read an article by a college professor about the new reality in his classes. He said that he had always assigned about 30 pages of reading for each class.  He had done that for years.  And now, his students are simply not capable of completing the 30 pages of reading.  They can’t. It’s not that they won’t.  It’s not that they are too “busy.”  Students have always been busy. It is that they can’t.

He speculates as to why, and places plenty of the blame on the phones that command so, so much of people’s attention.  The perpetual distractions that they afford have literally shrunk the focus capabilities of today’s students. 

I don’t doubt this.

But, the loss is immense. 

Here’s my view:  no Tweet, no blog post, no YouTube video, or Ted Talk, or podcast, provides the in-depth learning that reading a good book provides.

Fully reading a book is unlike any other learning experience. The Washington Book

And I’m not talking about skimming, or speed reading.  I’m not talking about the “Washington read.”  In a NY Times column I Read These Books So That You Don’t Have To, excerpted from his new book The Washington Book: How to Read Politics and Politicians, Carlos Lozado writes: 

The commentator Chris Matthews once admitted that Washingtonians themselves don’t really read such books. Instead, they give them what he calls the “Washington read” — a quick skim, a lone chapter or just an optimistic search through the index. 

I agree; a quick skim does not provide the benefit that a deep reading does.  

Nor do I believe that listening to an audio book provides the same level of in-depth learning.  Especially for nonfiction books, with arguments, and concepts, that require stopping, pondering, thinking… In other words, for books that require a “studying” mindset, reading the book itself is essential.  

There is something about reading a book; fully, completely, even…slowly…reading a book, that cannot be replicated in any other way.  

And, yes, of course, I know that reading my synopsis handouts, or following along on the handouts as I present the synopses, is a woefully inadequate substitute for reading the book for yourself.  (Though, it is enough of an exposure that you can learn plenty; and, if you have read the book, it provides a good refresher). 

But, here is the issue:  is it possible that our society is being hurt in ways that we don’t yet understand by our loss of reading focus?

If students cannot read thirty pages for a class, then fewer adults will read thirty pages, or 200 pages, or 600 pages, later in their life. 

Reading books takes time, and focus.  if fewer people actually read books for themselves  – and yes, the research says that this is happening – then maybe our society will pay some kind of price for this loss. 

Maybe we will fail to understand context, and maybe we will fail to know, or understand, the history behind current realities. …Maybe we will become more shallow.

So, the question is this:  what approach do you follow to keep learning?  

My opinion is this:  there really is no substitute for serious book reading – book reading with a studying mindset. 

Keep reading.  Keep studying. There is so, so much more to learn.

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