Maybe Aesop Was Right, the Tortoise Does Win: A Natural History of the Slow Reading Movement

W. Jason Niedermeyer


In the past decade, there has been a growing recognition that society’s emphasis on speed and efficiency came with some costs: a loss of the ability to appreciate activities and understand their meanings.  Recently, this meta-movement has made its way into the literature on literacy, causing the author to embark on an investigation into the veracity of the claims that slow reading might also mean better reading.  A natural history approach was adopted for the analysis to evaluate whether there was evolutionary justification for the movement, leading to the review of relevant work in the fields of ethology, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and literacy. The findings reveal an evolutionary push toward both speed and understanding, two aims that eventually come to be at odds in expert readers. It is the conclusion of the author that, from an evolutionary perspective, there may be justification for the start of a slow reading movement, but that it must be paired with practices that develop the capacity to read fast.



Slow reading, Literacy, Reading speed, Cognition

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