Sunday, January 30, 2011

The W's of Reading: Are You a Distracted Reader?

Happy Sunday to you!  I'm feeling upbeat and happy right now because, thankfully, I'm getting through the grading I've been grumbling about for ages.  It's been a slow process, but I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and should be finished with them later this coming week.  In the midst of all the grading, I seem to be reading a lot more than usual.  Reading has been my treat after a certain number of papers have been waded through!  In fact, I've been able to escape into a good read much easier than ever before, which led me to question just what it is about myself that makes me so easily distracted, normally?

For as long as I can remember, I've always been a "distracted" reader.  What do I mean by that?  It basically means that you could walk past me, talk to me, or have a conversation with someone else and I would catch all of it.  I've never been the type to escape to the degree that I can't be pulled out of a book, and that frustrates me. 

Each semester or year, I give my high school students a survey to find out what kind of readers they are and have found out the my "big time" readers are what I call "Escape" readers.  You would practically have to light them on fire to get their attention!  One of my best friends is like this as well and I'm completely jealous.  I don't know what it takes to be like that, but I have a feeling that it's just not in my DNA to become one. 

Having said that, I still think I read quite a bit.  However, here are the stipulations that I have to have in place to really read.  See if these "Distracted" reader qualities fit you:
  • I generally read a stack (7-12) books all at once.  When I get bored/distracted with one, it's just because I'm thinking about another book I'm dying to nibble away at.
  • The only exception to this is with what we call "Deconstructionist" texts that have so many fragmented story lines and narrators (i.e. Salman Rushdie) that I have to have a pen out to follow the story.  (One of my graduate professors pointed this out to me, that having multiple story lines and narrators settled me into one book.)
  • Although I carry books with me, everywhere I go, I can't necessarily settle into the book unless things are somewhat calm around me.  Read in line outside a concert?  Strangely, I can't unless I'm feeling a little down and disconnected from people.  Otherwise, I'm people watching and don't want to slip into a book! 
  • Public places are difficult.  I might read, but am painfully aware of what's going on around me.  I've gotten used to the fact that I'm easily distracted, but it is annoying at times.
  • Often times, it takes a little time to get into a book and hit that escape point.  Maybe I've been working with teenagers for too long, since they are like this, but I find that I have to have a type of reading warm up.  Once I'm warmed up and into the story though, I resent it when I have to stop.
  • My environment has to be right.  If I'm honest with  myself, I will admit that I have to have it quiet to read.  I can read with the TV on, but it has to be turned down, and I can't read with music on.  Even reading with a person next to me, who could be doing the same thing, is too much of a distraction.  I'm always aware of what's going on around me.
  • Technology can be a HUGE distraction when I'm trying to read.  Generally, my iPhone is by my side all the time, except the volume is off 99% of the time because of my job.  When things get quiet and I'm ready to read, I find myself reaching for my phone to check email, twitter, and my RSS feeds.  
  • Strangely, I can escape pretty well if I take off and go for a walk with my book.  Maybe it's that kinesthetic element?  By moving, my brain allows me to slip off into what I'm reading?
  • Sometimes when I'm bone tired or stressed out (as I've been the past several weeks), escaping is the easiest thing in the world.  Essentially, if my brain is worn down, I can read forever and not get distracted.
In the end, I've learned that reading is a necessity for my life and that I'm always seeking the moment or book that completely pulls me away.  (Geesh, that sounds like an addiction!)  Here are my necessary elements for a good escape:  quiet, comfortable space (tub, bed, couch, walking), and a little time to get warmed up and into the story.  Can I blame all of this on being an only child?  Did the quiet I grow up with come around to bite me now that I'm older, or is this just a personality trait?

Please share with me!  I really want to know if you're what I call a "Distracted" reader or an "Escape" reader, and have you always been like that?  If you're like me, what do you do to really escape?


  1. I guess I see more "distracted reader" traits in myself - I can't read with a lot going on in the background or in a busy public place. The only trait that doesn't resonate with me is having multiple books going on at once - I generally just read on at a time.

    great post!

  2. Found you on twitter, don't you love it? I'm definitely an "escape" reader, and it drives everyone around me made with envy or annoyance. I do find myself more easily distracted when I have my computer on and nearby. I'm catching distraction from my students (yes, I also teach high school English).

  3. I'm both, I think, with maybe an edge toward the distracted. I only read one book at a time, and until I really get into the meat of it, I'm a distracted reader. Unfortunately, I can be lured away from reading by just about anything - TV, computer, phone, or just that nagging sense that there's something I should be doing that I'm not doing. I can generally tune out one sort of noise to read, but if there's two I get all distracted and irritated (i.e. I can tune out the TV, but if if the TV is on and someone is talking or the dog is barking or something, my reading is toast). Once I really get into the meat of a book or that last third of the book that you know is the home stretch, I become an Escape reader and it's tough to pull me away - makes for bad news if I'm reading on my lunch break at work, or it's time for me to leave to go somewhere or I'll be late. I've been late one more than one occasion because I couldn't tear myself away from a book I was really into!

    Great post - I'd definitely be interested to see how book bloggers characterize themselves. Seems like so many bloggers read *so* many books in a year that I would guess there would be more Escape readers whose books seem to make the world vanish, but who knows?

  4. I think you should post the quiz you give to your students to see what kind of readers we are!

    In high school I could just about anything while reading--watch TV, have conversations, whatever. That's not the case anymore, though. I think I'm just not as good at multi-tasking as I once was.

  5. Oh dear, I certainly am! I usually have a few books on the go (some for work, some for the site, and some for my own reading), and need utter peace and quiet in order to read. :)

  6. I love this idea of a distracted v. escape reader. I think I'm a little bit of both - it depends on the book. Do you mind if I link to your post on my blog?

  7. Great post! Think I'm a little of both, depending on the book and the distractions. For instance, I have no trouble reading during football games, but regular TV shows are too distracting. I would love to be an escape reader all the time, but sometimes I seem to have ADD. :)

  8. Booksync--I wish I read one at once! I don't know what my deal is there, but once a book snaps in and I'm eager to read it, I can follow through. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one distracted though! :)

    Bibliophiliac--Yay! I'm glad you found me. I'll have to look you up as well. :) Do you think we're more distracted because of the whole student element???

    Megan--I could definitely relate to your experience with fighting it through the first part, but escaping through the last bit. I'm like that with certain books as well. In fact, I seek that moment out!

    Heidenkind--I wonder if we have more on our minds now than we did when we were younger? I think I escaped a little easier when I was younger, but I do remember reading a lot of books all at once. You really want to see my survey? Hmm...will consider! :)

    Stephanie--Yay, it's not just me! Sometimes I think I'm not quite with it that I can be yanked out of a book so easily!

    Holly--No, go right ahead and link! That's really nice of you to ask. :) I do think you're right about being a little of both at times. I wish I could be more of a one book girl, and escape more often than be distracted!

    Alexia561--LOL. I love that you can read during football games. :) I haven't tried, but I have a feeling that I might be able to read then too if I tried. Reading during basketball--no way, but I'll have to try it out!

  9. I've always been a distracted reader. One nice thing about being retired is that I can read more; I'm home in my quiet house and my husband is usually in his shop so there's nothing to distract me. However, I can't read when the TV is on or music, can't read out in public ordinarily because I hear every conversation and know everything that's going on. I read only one book at a time but I think that's a result of age; I have to concentrate on one thing at a time.

  10. I love this! I found your blog because I did a google image search for "woman reading," and liked this picture (and will be stealing it to use on my own blog...)

    I would have thought "distracted reader" meant someone who is distracted all the time because they are thinking about the book they are reading (or would rather be reading, instead of doing whatever it is they have to do before they can get back to their reading).

    That's the kind of reader I am--what you call an "escape reader." You would just about have to light me on fire most of the time when I'm reading. There are exceptions, of course, and the more difficult the book, the longer it takes me to get to the "escape" stage.

    Still, I'm not sure it's something to be jealous of! I routinely stay up until past 1 a.m. in order to read "just one more chapter," and go through much of my non-reading life as a zombie. My husband and daughter suffer from my distraction, I'm sure of it!

    Love that you give a quiz to your students! Glad I found this blog.