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How to Improve Your Reading Habits

Oct 31, 2007
Body habits count no less than mind habits in reading. Posture and activity must be carefully analyzed.

A. Posture

For convenience, rather than as a matter of logic, I shall here class together three kinds of position:
The actual bodily position.
This position relative to the printed page.
This position relative to the illumination.

1. Posture, in the narrower sense, is the body's own position; that is, the position of its members relative to one another.

So far as reading is concerned, posture is important in so far as it affects (a) the circulation of your blood, and (b) the tension of your muscles.

The two commonest bad postures are bending low over the printed page, and lying flat and looking up at the printed page.

Do you do much reading when lying down? How fast can you read in this position? As fast as when you are sitting up? As fast as when standing?

While some of us read pretty well thus, nobody ever reads effectively in the bent-over posture. It cannot be defended. Yet many business men fall into it.

There are other less frequently used bad postures. Slumping in one's chair, especially sidewise slumping, almost inevitably causes circulation difficulties and muscle tensions which lead to eye strain and headaches.

2. Your position relative to the printed page may be wrong in any of three ways:
a. Your eyes may be too close to the type, or
b. Too far from it, or
c. The page may be tilted so that parts of it lie much farther from your eyes than other parts; hence you have to shift your eye adjustment from word to word, thus causing needless strain.

3. Your bodily position relative to the light presents two aspects: (a) the way the light strikes the type, and (b) the way the light strikes your eyes.
a. There are three wrong ways of illuminating the type:
With too intense a light.
With too faint a light.
With very uneven light, so that parts of the page are bright and some dark.

In days of old, before cheap electricity, the tendency was to read in too faint lights. Today the trend is opposite; most of us who work in large city offices are in constant danger of overly bright lights. Recent studies reveal that ordinary work and reading can be done as efficiently in lights much fainter than those generally used in offices and factories. The bright lights have a psychological value, however, in that they seem to stimulate many workers.

There are two importantly wrong ways in which the light may strike the eyes:
(1) It may shine directly into both eyes from a position back of the page you are reading.
(2) It may shine into one eye but not into the other, as it comes from a side position.

Of these two, the former is by all odds the more injurious. Why? Because it causes an adjustment of the pupils which is the reverse of correct. Being exposed to direct light, the pupils contract and are then adjusted for seeing objects in bright light. But the page lies in shadow. To read it, the pupils ought to be more or less dilated. Too little light from the type reaches the retina. You might as well be reading in the late dusk. The eyestrain is grave indeed.

Correct these faults and you will find you are reading much more easily.
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