Over the holidays I (Clive) have had a chance to do some novel reading, and have read murder mysteries by J. K. Rowling (The Silkworm) and Elizabeth George (For the Sake of Elena). I enjoyed these novels, especially the first, but these authors – bless their hearts – like to put in a lot of social commentary, ideas about life, personal interest, etc. This can be very interesting and educational or quite aggravating, depending on one’s interests – so I did a lot of skimming (especially in Elena).
This made me think that in schooling and even university we don’t spend enough time teaching students to skim. We need to encourage them to “take charge” of their studies and reading life, rather than seeing complete coverage as the ideal. Smith and Wilhelm in their wonderful 2002 book Reading don’t fix no Chevys note that working class teenage boys often don’t like to read because the books we assign are too long. Skimming could help solve this problem. Similarly, doctoral students often take far too long on their literature review because they still don’t realize that one can and often must skim.
So let’s skim more – even in reading the daily news, in print or online – and encourage our students to do the same. It can make your day, and your holidays!