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A speed reader is reined in

Craig wants to read to me at night. His voice is richly low and melodious. The series of books he's picked out is one I've had on my "to be read" list forever. He's read it, and loves it. He's sure I will.

So, where's the problem?

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It lies within me - a speedy, impatient book-devourer who treasures her bedtime reading fests. I fear I'll be lulled to drowsiness before I can dive into my latest novel. But it's more than that. It's difficult for me to lie quietly and absorb a nightly leisurely couple of pages of a book I could barrel through in one or two readings. While no one would ever call me a reluctant reader, I am most definitely a reluctant listener.

Now, I wouldn't mind reading to him. In fact, I'd enjoy it. I'm chagrined when I offer, and he says, "This is something I would like to do for you." So maybe it's partly the passivity, the surrender of the activity that bothers me.

Or maybe it's that I've always learned much better through either reading or watching a demonstration than by listening. I tended to have problems with concepts lectured to me in classrooms, until I read them for myself. And I can rarely follow the plot on audiobooks, rewinding and relistening over and over.

My eyes are a direct freeway to my mind; my ear-to-brain route seems to be a long, meandering country road with many detours and cattle crossings. That's just the person I am.

But to all these excuses, I ultimately have to say, "So?" Do I truly believe speed, impatience, and barreling through are good qualities in a reader? No, not really. Do I have trouble lying still? Too bad. I'm not good at listening? How will I ever be, if I don't try? But, most of all - how can I squelch a gift like this, say "No, thanks," to such a loving offer?

And so we settle in to "The Book of Three," by Lloyd Alexander. I have to repeatedly interrupt Craig to ask questions such as "I'm sorry, I lost track - who is this again?" I must view each name in print, in order to remember it during the rest of the story. I tense and shift around, all the time reminding myself to relax and stay still, to let the words flow into my consciousness.

And then, pow! I'm caught like a trout on a hook. I'm wondering about the characters during the daytime: Did they survive their predicament? I rush through bedtime preparations. I hand the book to Craig before he's fully sitting on the bed. And, when he's finished with his two pages, I say, "One more page?"

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With my husband's nighttime tales, he teaches me. I learn, word by sonorous word, page by rustling page, night by wonder-filled night, to savor the slow pleasures. Each time Craig closes the book and I travel back from the fantasy's kingdom to our own bedroom, I realize how different I am now compared with when he started the book.

The stories Craig tells me become part of our life story, the one he and I share, in which the plot can't be predicted and the characters grow and change (sometimes reluctantly). I can't wait to hear what happens next.


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