Speed Reading: How to read faster

Learn speed reading. Are you overwhelmed with the amount of information you have to read. In this article you will learn techniques to increase your reading speed and read more in the time that you have available.

Think about the amount of information that you have to read each day. Whether you are reading the newspaper, reading reports, or the tide of email that comes each day, reading is a skill that we use often and also take for granted in the work environment.

Given the amount of time that you spend reading each day, increasing your reading speed (while still maintaining same or increased understanding) is a sure way to increase your productivity.

Advantages of speed reading

Do you only glance at documents, knowing that you should be reading with more care? Do you want to spend more time doing other things, or to read more in your specialized area?

speed reading

The average reading speed is 200-350 words per minute, with about 60% comprehension. The speed and comprehension depend on the content and experience of the reader. 

Did you know that you could read much quicker and with more higher comprehension? Top speed readers can read up to a 1,000 words per minute with up to 85% comprehension rates!

So reading quicker is a win-win for your work and your career because:

  1. it increases the amount that you can read in a given time and
  2. gives you a better bigger picture thinking as your comprehension increases. 

How to increase reading speed

Learning how to increase reading speed has become big business with authors writing books, companies selling speed reading courses, and entrepreneurs developing specialized speed reading software.

Before you hand over your hard-earned cash to lean how to increase reading speed, why not first identify poor reading habits and then develop better habits to increase your reading speed. 

Poor reading habits can be classed into

  1. sub-vocalization
  2. reading word by word
  3. regression

1. Sub-vocalization hampers reading speed

Do you notice that the word forms in your head as you are reading. Pronouncing the word in your head as you read is sub-vocalization. You may notice that you hear the word being spoken in your mind.

Most of us do in varying degrees! This subvocalization hampers reading speed. Speed reading techniques often try to reduce this sub-vocalization.

Often, just being aware of sub-vocalization is helpful to reduce it. One tip to reduce sub-vocalization is to count to 10 repeatedly as you read - but this can hamper reading comprehension!

Another tip is to read in blocks which I talk about below.

2. Reading word by word slows you down and reduces comprehension

At school you were often told what to read - but rarely were you told how to read. I remember my 3rd grade teacher telling me "Kell, you need to read every word" as I stumbled over every word. As adults, many empathize with learning to read word-by-word or letter-by-letter as a child.

As you are reading these words focus on your eye movements! Your eyes are probably taking in a couple of words each time and then moving to the next block. One key point of learning how to increase reading speed involves increasing the number of words you read in each block.

People who read word-by-word can understand much less than people who read in larger blocks of words. Think about how your eyes are moving as you read this article. How many words are you reading before your eyes move to the next block.

Now try increase the number of words in each block. 

Two tips to increase the number of words in each block
1. Use your hand as a guide. As your hand moves, your eyes will follow.
2. Hold the book a little further away from your eyes than you normally do.

The more words you can increase in each block the faster you will read. Another tip is to reduce fixation time on each block of words to increase your reading speed.

As your eyes move across each block of words you spend probably 1/4 of a second to comprehend the words in the block before moving onto the next block. To reduce fixation time on each block of words focus on the key words in the sentence and reduce your time on conjunctions, prepositions, or articles (an, but, and, or, the...).

3. Regression slows your reading speed

Do you get to the end of the paragraph and realize that you have to re-read passages? Perhaps it is just the sentence that you need to re-read? These regressions (or skip-backs) slow your reading speed!

Whether it is your wandering mind or the eye movements that hover and quickly re-adjust over words, reducing the time you spend re-reading paragraphs and/or sentences increases reading speed. I find that using a pencil, my hand, or a reading pointer is a helpful way to focus my eyes and concentration on the block of words I am reading.

Reduce regression with this reading exercise
To avoid re-reading sentences or paragraphs, take a sheet of paper and, as you read, make the sheet of paper trail your reading. Move the paper down slowly and increase the speed as you gain confidence.

Reading linearly and inefficient eye movements

Eye movements. Slow readers tend to focus on each word as their eyes move across the line of the page. However, your eye gaze can take in about 1.5 inches across the page (this is equivalent to about 5 words). Readers could also practice using their peripheral vision to take into account the words at either end of line.To do this try to soften your gaze as you read. 

Reading Linearly. From a young age we are taught to read left to right and down the page. We are taught to take into account each sentence and pagraph as we move from page to page. In essence we are taught to read linearly. You can increase reading speed by having a general overview of the content you are reading.

By scanning the table of contents or a document summary and knowing the information you want to glean from the report allows you to extract the essential facts. Look for dot points, skim over the fluff and focus in on the relevant points that you are searching for.

Choose your place to practice speed reading

Choose your place to practice. Normal reading is difficult with distractions. But speed reading is next to impossible with distractions.

Find a quiet place or a regular reading spot to reduce external distractions. Internal distractions may also exist - thinking about the conversation with your friend or the movie you are going to see later today may be an internal distraction that makes speed reading difficult.

Read with purpose and motivation to reduce internal distractions. This free reading app “Rapid Serial Visual Presentation” technique can help to reduce sub-vocalization and increase reading speed.

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