The more I read, the more I want to read. That said, there are so many wonderful books and so little time. That’s where speed reading comes in, a practice I’ve been trying to develop in order to get through more books.
Much of my reading I do not want to race through, but rather take my time and meander through the story and living a few days with the characters. And of course I don’t want to speed read through the Bible since that would be missing the point almost entirely.
On the flip side, you probably have a ton of reading that has to be done, preferably fast.
That might include:
- history lessons
- previewing novels for appropriateness for the kids
- non-fiction books
- novels that don’t strike your fancy but you can’t put down because you’re a little OCD, like me
Intuitively, we all know a few tricks to make non-fiction reading go faster such as looking for bullet points and highlighted material, and reading only the sections that are relevant to you. Beyond that, there are proven techniques to help you move through a lot of material quickly. But first let’s talk about some issues that might be slowing you down.
Hindrances to Speed Reading:
- Subvocalization: (sounding out words in your head.) Children are taught to read letter-by-letter, then word-by-word. They are taught orally, since it’s the only way to observe progress. Once most people start reading to themselves, they never stop enunciating each word in their head and pick up some speed.
- Too many eye stops. If you watch someone’s eyes as they read, they usually move from left to right, then down the page. Also, the eye tends to go backwards to pick up lost material. The more the eye stops, the less words per minute. One book went so far as to say that all eye movement is a total waste as far as productive reading goes.
- Low reader expectation. It’s one of those things people don’t consciously think about improving. Did you know that “real” speed readers soak in up to 1,000 WPM?
The good news is, anyone can learn to read faster without sacrificing comprehension! Of course, if you’re trying to wade through content that’s particularly important, it’s still wise to dial it down a few notches and pay attention. If I ever need a brain surgeon, I hope he didn’t push for 1,000 WPM in medical school! That said, here are some proven techniques for you to try.
Tips for Speed Reading:
- Eliminate distractions. The more chaos/noise/chatter in the background, the slower a person is able to read. How many times have you had to re-read a sentence because of interruptions? Also, get comfortable and have proper lighting. If you’re like me, you’ll also need a good pair of readers.
- Use peripheral vision and begin block reading. Instead of the word-by-word method taught to children, expand your field of vision to take in more words per blink. And instead of allowing your eyes to stop every few words, keep moving. This will take practice. There are books available with eye drills if reading faster is something you’re serious about.
- Read from directly from the page to your brain–in other words, quit subvocalizing, or sounding out words in your head. Instead of going from mouth to ear to brain, go from eyes to brain. This, too, will take practice.
- Turn pages faster. This obviously isn’t an issue when you’re reading off your phone or e-reader, but if you’re working with good old-fashioned paper, studies have shown that readers waste a lot of time turning pages. If possible, lay your book flat, and have your thumb ready to turn the page without skipping a beat.
- Use a marker. I’ve read two differing opinions on this one, so take your pick. Using a pencil or the tip of your finger MAY help you keep your place and increase speed, but it may also cause you to move more slowly if it’s something you have to think about.
Increasing your speed will allow you to get to more of those wonderful books out there, so I hope you can put some of these techniques into practice. For those of you concerned about comprehension, much of the research indicates that speed reading actually increases comprehension instead of reducing it. Think of a movie: you get more out of it watching it all at once, rather than in pieces. The same goes for reading. The slower you read, the more interruptions you’ll face. There are tons of resources out there that go into more detail and give practice exercises.
For the record, my current reading speed is 277 WPM and my comprehension is 82%. I’m still slightly ahead of the pack but I’m not breaking any records!
Here’s the link to the speed reading test. Come back and let me know how you fare!