Speed reading is not a gift or a talent you're born with but it's a skill available for everyone who is eager enough to spend some time and effort on getting rid of a habit (slow reading). Speed reading is a method that trains eyes and vision to see and perceive more at once and simultaneously train the brain to process concept and ideas rather than individual words.
When a child is learning to read (usually age of 6-7), they start with learning the alphabet, then spelling the words, pronouncing the syllables out loud and after all recognizing and understanding the word. It is believed that for kids who are capable of reading before school it is easier to “switch” to fast reading mode because they use more of their photographic memory and remember the words as a whole (length, letters in it), without decomposing it on syllables. Fast reader reads several words at once, pausing for a moment on them and continuing to the next group. This reduces repeated movement that makes the reader's eye while increasing the amount of information that can be considered at this time.
The average speed of reading is approx. 125-150 words per minute or 50 standard pages in 2 hours but our brains can absorb much more information for this time. Real fast readers can reach up to 2000 words per minute, which saves them good amount of time. Most people read with the speed of speaking or slower, leading to boredom and distraction of thought. Increasing reading speed increases concentration and perception of information.
There are a few basic mistakes that reflects on the speed of reading:
- rereading the same information several times (regression)
- pronouncing the words in your mind while reading
- low concentration and diversion of thought while reading
- focus on the individual words and waste of time (word by word)
- release a part of the text due to limited time (skipping)
- change a place of words (put them in wrong order)
- poor memory (forgetting quickly)
Field of view is also important when speed reading. Guided by a simple rule - the more text you can see at a glance, the faster you read, reader can improve their reading speed.
Here are some steps for improving the speed of reading by yourself, without going to special classes or expensive courses. Of course, you have to start with the Pre-check:
- Examine your eyes – make sure you don't have any medical problems that can restrict you to reveal your full capacity of speed reading. If you don't have any diagnosis that requires rest of the eyes or if your reading glasses are properly choosed, you shouldn't be worried.
- Avoid distractions – such as music playing, TV on, people chattering, cell phone ringing, etc. If not possible to get rid of them all, you may consider using earplugs.
- Read in a proper position – don't lay or bend, stay sit in a comfortable chair. Make sure your book (or laptop/cellphone monitor) is angling 45 degrees as this reduces eyestrain a lot. You may use a bookstand .
- Time your current speed of reading – you can do it either by checking the time you read a certain amound of words or by how many words you read for a defined period of time. You can also use free online “reading speed tests”, but don't try to cheat and read faster than usual. Make this test a few times and get your average result according to which you will measure your improvement.
Now you can start your training in speed reading. Stick to thе following advices:
- Аdjust your speed of reading to the concrete text – there is a difference if you read a magazine article and a medical textbook. According to the importance of the subject, you can chose how deep you want to go into it and how much time and effort you want to spend.
- Preview the text before starting to read – when you start reading a block of text, a new chapter, a new article skim through it and try to catch the main concept of it (search for constantly repeating key words, phrases printed in bold, sentences separated from the paragraph, etc.). Thus it will be easier for you to focus on the important parts and skip the irrelevant pieces (descriptions, parallels, reminiscents).
- Avoid reading to yourself (pronouncing in mind) or rereading the text – you may find it helpful to use your finger (or sheet of paper) to move with under the lines. Thus you are visualizing your speed of reading and also helps you not to miss your point.
- Put yourself purposes and deadlines – try to focus and derive from a text just the information you really need or got the main idea of it, as this will make you much more effective readers. In order to high up the level of your comprehension you can form questions – turn the headings and subheadings in questions and seek for the answers into the text. Also have some time limitations (for example 5 min. for an article, 20 min. for a chapter). This is consider to help you pick up yourself and concentrate.
Speed reading requires a lot of practice, time and effort, but is extremely useful of you have to work with a great amount of written texts daily. On the other case, if your job is more connected with meeting people and talking to them, improving your reading skills may be unnecessary burden. In order to keep your achievements one needs constant practice. It is also vital whether you want to read fast and squeeze all the information from a text/book or you are more likely to enjoy the mastership of the writer, tasting every word of its composition. If it is worthed, of course.