Develop deep reading habits

Develop deep reading habits

Effective leaders read.  They read a lot.  If you aspire to become a leader, you should start reading….. a lot.  And I want you to develop what I call “deep reading”.

Let me first explain what is NOT deep reading.

My dad was an avid collector of books, and would buy about five used books in the flea market every month.  Over a period of time he had collected a few hundred books on various subjects.  Most of them had little moth-holes in them and some of them even had a lot of dog-eared pages.

During summer vacations while growing up, I was not allowed to go out of the house to play during the daytime.   Dad was a strict disciplinarian and wanted me to study or read most of the time.  I was permitted (the luxury of) about three hours of playtime in the evening, usually between 5 and 8 pm.  I can’t begin to tell you how painful it was during the whole day (all of 8 hours) to listen to loud, happy, playful noise of the kids in the neighborhood as they went about their play.  Cries when someone hit a home run or gasps when someone’s kite got cut off, were gut-wrenching to me.  My sense of deprivation of all that fun made me feel robbed.

Now there was only one way out for me to shut out all that distraction and that was to delve deep into the books in our home library.  I started reading.  I would read books on any topic. Some of them were so old that if I folded a corner, that little triangle would simply break off.

I must have finished reading all the books in about four to five years of summer vacation time.  This did help my general knowledge.  I would be able to easily answer questions related to locations, capitals of countries, a lot of the stuff in the encyclopedia Brittanica, etc.  Felt great, and I became a voracious reader.

There was one problem though.

My reading was not deep enough. 

I would flip pages, and “gloss” over every word in a page and then move on to the next at great speed.  Some of what I “looked over”, stuck in my memory.  Since I read a lot, I remembered a lot.   I was able to retrieve most of what I remembered, and hence made me feel good about myself.  You could say I was an “inch-deep and a mile-wide”.  I was by no means an expert on any one subject, simply because I lacked depth in my readings and in my understanding.  I was NOT a deep reader.

“Deep reading” can help improve one’s ability in the following ways:

  1. You understand the material better and your thought process not only builds great confidence in you, but also helps you ask some relevant questions
  2. You are able to sense the girth of the topic and get a sense of what would constitute completeness (and then strive to get further information to inch towards completing your knowledge of the subject)
  3. You are able to recognize, understand and critique on the author’s style
  4. You are able to connect the passage you are reading now, with:
  • something that you are already aware of
  • something that you read before
  • or with someone who is involved in this subject

As you practice deep reading, you will realize that your reading speed (number of pages/hour) slows down.  But over a few months you will also realize that you are able to understand better, articulate what you read a lot better and more importantly, become a subject matter expert in those topics that interest you and where you choose to practice deep reading.

If you “deep read” this passage, you will notice that it is incomplete.  Use the comments below to indicate what you feel should have been included in this passage.   I most certainly want to know what good reading habits you practice.

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