Reading is something I separate into two spheres: serious/academic and pleasure. I thought the way I read was straightforward, but this week I really took the time to examine why I stick to certain habits when it comes to reading. As a child, learning to read (which started at age three) became synonymous with school. I remember my dad sitting with me and My First Primer mouthing the words as I spelled and learned to pronounce the letters and syllables. Repetition was key to learning how to read and write, I’d have copybooks full with words written over and over.
When examining how I read today, I realized that I exhibit some of those same principles. For academic reading I prefer a physical copy. I like highlighting important points, asking questions, and summarizing points in the margin for ease of reference when I write my papers. Spatial recognition is key for me when reading and writing. When I read the physical copy of a book or article, even if I don’t remember a point I can recall it by remembering the layout of the page and where points are situated on it.
When I study for exams I rely on this method as well. I take all my notes electronically throughout the term, but when preparing for final exams, I write everything out on flash cards. My memory recall is tied to the actions of copying and writing things down.
If I print out my notes and read them repeatedly I tend not to recall what I just read. I believe that the way I learned to read and write has bearing on the way I process information at this stage of my life.
I do most pleasure reading electronically. While I love holding the physical book in my hands (I’m pretty particular with my books, I don’t even crack the spine when I read!) the convenience of reading on my phone, Kindle, or Nexus tablet wins out. It is a lot more convenient to have my books electronically than have multiple bulky books in my backpack or purse. I don’t need to make extensive notes and portability is the main reason for reading on a screen. I rely on public transportation, so space is also an issue. It is easier to immerse myself into the universe of the book when I’m not fighting for elbow room or standing room. Reading a physical book isn’t conducive when standing, turning the page becomes difficult and often impossible. However, what I find interesting about reading on a device is that it is an isolating experience. Previous to e-readers, I could look at what a person was reading and if it looked interesting, ask them what the book was about. People love talking about their favorite authors and their books. Now, such a task is impossible. You never know what people are reading and the act of reading has become a personalized, isolated experience like those of the monks cloistered in the monastery.