How Sonlight Hindered Me in College

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Blogs have finally taught me a skill I had failed to master until now. I couldn't do it in high school. I still couldn't do it in college.

I realized I had made a breakthrough when my dad recently asked me, "How do you keep up with all the blogs you follow?"

I'm the kind of guy who reads at the speed of writing: One word at a time. There's no way I could burn through several hundred posts every morning in a couple of hours.

But I do.

The skill required to pull off such a feat is something called "skimming."

Skimming is the art of letting your eyes pick out important words within large amounts of text to get a gist of the meaning or topic. This was, in theory, how I was supposed to read my college History textbooks. I was supposed to somehow glean the information I needed by burning through dozens of dull pages of drivel to find the important meaning buried within the poor writing.

I couldn't do it.

I read, word by word, through a few paragraphs before my brain crashed. I would wake up a couple hours later, having learned nothing. I had no idea how to find the "important" words within the chapters. Shouldn't every word be important? Clearly not. But in college I was still stuck with the idea that published books selected by my educator should contain a significant amount of important information. I blame it on my Sonlight background. Every book my mom handed me had meaning and was a joy.

Blogging finally broke me of thinking that written words must contain deep meaning for me. Not because your posts are lame and meaningless. Not at all. But I quickly discovered that I personally was not interested in certain topics. On the other hand, I found myself reading any post that had to do with a few particular subjects. The more I read blogs, the better I become at recognizing the key words and phrases that alert me to a topic of interest or importance to me.

In reading the headline and scanning a post for a few key words, I can now decide if I should read all of it, skim sections of it, or move on to the next post. It is incredibly freeing. I can cover so much more ground because of it.

Sadly, because I was raised on Sonlight's incredible literature, I grew up believing that every block of text contained a goldmine of value. This hindered me in college (and a bit in high school) when I began to encounter flat and pointless texts.


I'm thankful for the Sonlight Difference. The pain I experienced from reading dry textbooks in college says far more about the nature of those texts than it does about Sonlight.

Still, it is nice to have finally mastered a skill I'd heard about all these years.

Do you find it hard to skim great literature? How did you learn to skim?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. The HoJo's

    I adore reading and used to read absolutely anything, now I am older and in charge of my own time I am a little fussier and will return a library book half read if I dislike it, will skim an article until a keyword jumps out and can retain most of what I have read short term and will go back and read carefully what seems to need re-reading and remembering. I was always a fast reader so perhaps my skimming came easy because of this.


  2. Jana C.

    You can say that again. Skimming is a time saver. But you need to saver Sonlights timeless selection. ;-)

  3. Robin E.

    I was 20-something before I learned to skim, and it was for much the same reason as you, Luke, to spend my limited time on the things I find personally interesting or relevant(I needed to skim because not all how-to books are actually worthy of the time they take to read).

    Anyway, one of the reasons I homeschool with Sonlight is that I don't want my kids to develop the skimming habit until they have the wisdom to use it wisely.

  4. Nichole

    Having been through public school since Kindergarten and having a love of good books, I learned to skim early on. Skimming is a necessity, especially in college for those professors who are not good at choosing books.

  5. Jenn4him

    I am not aloud to skim when I am reading to my children. They would protest! I do skim when I am trying to get through more technical stuff that I am reading for myself. It is amazing how fast I can get through a book these days and still retain knowledge. Plus, I will take notes if I really want to remember something. I will have to remember to bring this up with my kids one of these days. They may have the same issue as you since they are brought up on Sonlight,too. :-)

  6. Kahlua Keeping Koala

    I skim anything that isn't good reading. If my son makes it through three chapters and just cannot stand a book, we put it away. I'm teaching him through the Usborne science book (6) to look for what you care about and skip the rest. I am using a sort of SRA reading lab for my 1st grader who then has to answer the questions after he reads a short story. Get the main idea...

  7. Kahlua Keeping Koala

    It is a real skill. I don't know if I picked it up early on in my schooling because I never read an entire book until I was in 7th grade and thus book reports were nothing but skimming. I also was taught the reverse of good writing. First paragraph. First sentence of each paragraph. Last Paragraph. Then you can see if you really care.

  8. mom

    I'm sorry.....skimming great literature? Inconceivable! :-)


  9. Michelle

    My 6th-grade reading teacher, Mrs. Aimers, taught me how to speed-read, ie, skim.

    It's a wonderful skill to have, but made science and math difficult subjects for me. In those texts, every 'if' or 'but' carries meaning.

    I find myself reading through our Sonlight books quickly - I want to find out what happens! Then as I read them aloud to my children, I'm free to think about deeper meanings and/or themes of the books.

    Congrats on learning how to skim! Guess I should figure out if my kids have learned that skill yet...


  10. Eternal Instants

    Am I a skimmer?... Not so much. However, there are a few good reasons to get good at this skill. If I had a very busy blog, I'd use the skill more often but I don't get enough hits on my blog for that... yet.

    Great post though!

  11. Luke

    Thanks for your feedback, everyone!


  12. Jamie Jo

    I agree with savoring all truly good literature, but I do confess to skimming over blogs to find ones that strike my fancy. Once I find one, though, I read it like they are speaking to me.

    Maybe Sonlight could offer a high school elective in speed reading for college success.

  13. Luke

    Good idea, Jamie. That may prove very helpful for students. Thanks for the suggestion!


  14. Pingback: The Speed at which You Read | Sonlight Blog