Speed reading is a collection of reading methods which attempt to increase rates of reading without greatly reducing comprehension or retention. Methods include chunking and eliminating subvocalization. No absolute distinct "normal" and "speed-reading" types of reading exist in practice, since all readers use some of the techniques used in speed reading (such as identifying words without focusing on each letter, not sounding out all words, not sub-vocalizing some phrases, or spending less time on some phrases than others, and skimming small sections). Speed reading is characterized by an analysis of trade-offs between measures of speed and comprehension, recognizing that different types of reading call for different speed and comprehension rates, and that those rates may be improved with practice. There are many programs available that teach different fundamentals, while some are better than others.
Speed reading is helpful at home, in the office and in the classroom. Most speed reading programs teach simple techniques that help aspiring speed readers better focus their concentration, limit their eye movements and other factors.
Speed reading requires retraining the brain to more efficiently process words. Good reading skills are a prerequisite to successfully learn speed reading. Experts warn that speed reading techniques will not benefit someone who has poor reading comprehension or vocabulary problems.
Anyone with good reading skills can very quickly learn to improve their speed. But experts warn that becoming a dedicated speed reader with good comprehension takes much practice and concentration.
Learning To Speed Read
Here are some of the basic steps to learning speed reading:
Start by timing your current reading speed. Knowing your base speed will allow you to gauge improvements in your reading time and thus keep you motivated during your studies. You can time yourself by taking one of the many reading tests that are available online. Or you can simply track your reading speed with a watch, a cooking timer or even the timer on your cell phone.
Before starting your speed reading practice sessions, clear the area of all potential distractions. Turn off any music, switch off the TV and unplug the telephone. Find a place, even just a room, where you can be alone to practice speed reading. Make sure you are seated comfortably in a quiet site. This will let your mind focus solely on reading.
Adjust your desired reading speed to the materials you have chosen to read. Try to match your ability to comprehend to your reading speed.
Learn to take advantage of skimming to quicken your reading pace. Identify important materials and sentences that are vital to comprehension from the non-vital information in the document. Rapidly skim over the less important words and sentences. Train yourself to find key words. Read those key words and then merely skim the rest of the material.
Develop a wider eye-span with “chunking.” Chunking is reading blocks of words or blocks of sentences at a glance to quicken reading speed. Practice reading blocks of words or sentences at one time rather than reading each word or sentence individually. Limit the left-to-right movements of your eyes by gradually increasing the number of words you read at a glance with chunking.
Strive to shorten your “fixation” time. That is the length of time needed to read each block of words or each block of sentences. Practice is necessary to cut your fixation time, according to speed reading experts.
Refrain from re-reading sentences and passages. Many people are in the habit of re-reading portions of the text. Break this habit to quicken your reading speed.
Some experts contend that you should not subvocalize while practicing speed reading. Subvocalization is described as internal speech where readers imagine the sounds of the words they are reading.
Use your fingers and hands to keep your eyes focused on the appropriate places on the page. This will also help you avoid making mistakes.
Regularly practice your speed reading. Focus on pushing yourself to read faster and better. Always strive to reach a higher level in your speed reading studies. Time yourself frequently. Chart your improvements.
Speed reading experts offer these useful tips to help you get the most out of your practice sessions and more quickly increase your reading speed: Select reading materials with a large font for your practice sessions. The larger type will help you stay focused.
Stop “eye rests.” Eye rests are the split second pauses that you make while reading a document. Your eyes are moving down the line while reading, but the eyes will stop on a word several times per line before resuming reading. First works on reducing the number of eye rests, and then try to eliminate them. Keep your eyes moving methodically line-by-line without stopping?
Choose materials that you have previously read when making a selection for your practice sessions. You can focus better on your speed when you are reading a book or article that you already know, according to experts. Or at least choose a topic that you’re already familiar with. Then you can add new materials and new topics as a challenge after your reading speed improves.
Read the table of contents before speed reading a book. Check out the back cover. It helps to know a bit about the book before speed reading. Experts recommend briefly perusing the material before you start reading to learn the gist of the document and to familiarize yourself with the writer’s style.
Choose topics that you are interested in reading about. This helps focus your concentration on what you’re reading. Your attention might wander if you’re bored with a topic, and you’ll then waste time re-reading that part of the document.
Decide what information you are seeking from a document before starting to read. If you only want a summary on a certain topic, you can skim the materials for the essential information. But if you need to fathom the details of a complicated subject, you will likely need to read slower to attain the necessary level of comprehension.
Adapt the reading pace to your purpose and the type of material you are reading. Difficult, technical data will likely require a slower reading rate than easy, non-complicated material.
Choose newspapers or magazines with narrow columns of text when practicing chunking. The narrow columns are helpful when learning how to read blocks of words and blocks of sentences at a glance.
Start slowly when using your fingers or hands to guide the eyes. This will help hone your speed reading skills and eventually quicken your pace.
Some practicing speed readers find that it is faster to guide their eyes with an index card, a piece of folded paper or a bookmark rather than using their fingers or hands as a guide.
Take breaks at regular intervals when practicing speed reading. Research shows that efficiency suffers with uninterrupted reading. Frequent breaks help clear the mind and refresh you up so that you’re better able to learn. Some experts suggest taking a five-minute break every hour to allow for better comprehension and ultimately faster reading.
Establish a time goal when speed reading a book. Determine how fast you want to read it and then push yourself to meet that goal.
Strike a good balance between your reading speed and comprehension level. Try to quicken your reading pace while also understanding the contents of the document.
Speed Reading Exercises
There are many helpful exercises that beginning speed readers can use to read even faster. Beginners can find speed reading exercises online or buy computer programs that teach speed reading. Other options for learning to speed read are reading books on the topic or taking classes online or in person.
Some of the most common speed reading exercises involve practicing chunking or eliminating subvocalizing while reading.
One way for the novice speed-reader to eradicate subvocalizing is to practice reading on a conscious level, according to experts. This eliminates excessive subvocalizing and increases reading pace, according to those experts.
Another speed reading exercise involves establishing a rhythm by reading at a set pace.
Experts point to five self-pacing techniques that are helpful when learning to speed read. Accomplished readers should increase their reading speeds relatively quickly with these techniques, although several practice sessions are needed before the readers will feel comfortable with a particular method, according to experts. Beginning speed readers should try all five methods and then concentrate on the technique they feel most comfortable using.
Sit erect when practicing these techniques. Hold the reading material down on a flat surface with your left hand and use your right hand for a pacing guide. Left-handed students should do the opposite. Lefties should hold the reading material down with their right hand and use the left hand for pacing.
• Card Pacing Technique - Use a card or a folded sheet of paper as a blocker while reading. Place the blocker card above the printed line and use it to block those words after you’ve read them. Drag the blocker steadily down the page at a slow pace and attempt to read the words before they vanish beneath the blocker card. Drag the card down quicker than you believe you can read. Experts contend this technique cures the reader’s natural tendency to re-read passages.
• Hand Pacing Technique – Put your right hand on the written page and slowly drag it straight down the page while drawing your eyes down simultaneously as you read. Maintain a slow, steady pace and follow with your eyes. Practicing this motion will eventually allow you to pick up the pace and read faster. Don’t pause while reading.
• Sweep Pacing Technique- Use your hand’s motion to draw your eyes across the written page. Begin by cupping your right hand while keeping the fingers together. Fluidly sweep your fingers from left to right while underling the line of text with the tip of your middle finger. Move your entire arm while using the sweep pacing method. The sweeping motion should mimic the movement you would make while dusting something off the page, according to experts.
• Hop Pacing Technique – This technique is similar to the sweep method. Raise your fingers and make two evenly placed hops or bounces on each line. Each hop or bounce will include a block of words. Maintain a steady pace. Move your entire arm and not just the wrist.
• Zig-zag Pacing Technique (also known as the loop pacing technique) – This method involves scanning. Slide your hand diagonally across approximately three lines of text, and then glide back to the next line. The aim is to scan the text and focus on the main ideas rather than reading word-for-word. Experts say this technique is best reserved for simple reading material and not for material that need careful study.
Traits That Reduce Reading Speed
Experts blame 11 habits or traits for slowing an individual’s reading speed. These include:
• Reading each individual word.
• Tardy perceiving and responding to reading materials.
• Inaccurate eye movements across a page of text.
• Reading out loud.
• Needless or unrealized re-reading.
• Poor attention and concentration.
• Too little reading experience.
• Fear of losing reading comprehension.
• Habitual slow reading.
• Attempting to remember everything rather than choosing what is important enough to retain.
• Faulty decision of which data is important and which is not.
Beginners adopting speed reading as a hobby will be rewarded with a skill that will improve their private, professional and academic lives.
A book enthusiast who learns to read faster will find time to peruse many more volumes during leisure time. A news junkie who speed reads can consume many additional newspapers, magazines and online sites.
Speed reading can also be applied to the business world. Speed readers can read more data on the job, thus increasing their productivity.
Students will also benefit from the ability to speed read. Speed reading will enable them to wade through the required reading material quicker and finish their assignments faster.
Other benefits of speed reading include the ability to amass more knowledge and the ability to browse large amounts of data.
Many people enjoy speed reading both as a hobby and as a professional or intellectual advantage. Some of the hobby’s aficionados converge for the annual World Championship Speed Reading Competition.
Speed reading is a general term that refers to various methods aimed at increasing speed without unduly sacrificing comprehension or retention.
A beginner interested in speed reading can choose among many learning options. He or she can enroll in a commercial reading program, buy special computer software, take a speed reading class in person or online, or learn the hobby from a book.
Good reading skills are necessary in order to successfully practice speed reading. Experts caution that you can’t learn to read faster if you can’t read well at a normal pace.