Are you drowning in a sea of unread papers? Do you feel frustrated because you cannot keep up with your reading assignments? You may have wondered if you should take a speed-reading course. Or can you learn to improve your reading ability by yourself?
The good news is that if you are committed and actually do the work, you can develop your own speed-reading program at home. You can greatly increase your reading speed without sacrificing comprehension.
How do you start to improve your reading speed? The first step is to determine what your current reading speed is.
Find some reading material to practice with, such as an article in a magazine, or use a chapter of a book. Set a timer for a short period, such as five or ten minutes. Start reading at your regular speed, and see how far you can get in the time allotted. Do not try to read faster or slower than normal; the object here is to find out what your regular reading speed is. When the time is finished, mark the page so you know exactly how far you read. You will need to count how many words you read in this amount of time.
Now, using the same article set the timer again, for the same number of minutes. Start at the point in your article where you left off the last time. Do not re-read exactly the same material that you have just finished.
This time, concentrate on reading much faster than you did the first time. Go as fast as you can while still taking in every word and maintaining your comprehension. Calculate your reading speed and compare it to your first effort. Did your score improve? Try again, striving to read even faster without sacrificing comprehension.
If your performance has measurably speeded up, notice whether you feel relaxed or tense. Are you telling yourself that reading fast is hard? Many of the roadblocks you face in going faster are mental, in your mind, and can be changed.
Many people have developed bad reading habits that slow them down. See if you make any of the following errors.
When you read, do you read word for word? Or do you sweep your eyes across phrases and sentences? Trying to take in every single word will slow you down and even interfere with your comprehension. Why? Because in the English language, the meaning of sentences is built up from groups of words, from the way phrases and clauses are put together. Halting at every single word can keep you from absorbing the meaning of the entire sentence.
You can actually take in the meaning of a sentence better by using your eyes to sweep across phrases and clauses, rather than slowing down to take in each word separately.
A very common bad reading habit is called “sub-vocalization”. You have probably noticed that many young children who are just learning to read will sound out syllables and words to themselves. Many people continue to do this even as adults. The habit of sub-vocalization is a drag on your potential reading speed because your brain can take in and process information much faster than you can sub-vocalize.
You can actually look at printed information and have it enter directly into the mind without moving your lips or sounding out the words in your head. If you have been sounding out the words in your mind while you read, you will not be reading at your optimal level. From now on, consciously make the effort to take in meaning from the printed page without hearing the words spoken in your mind.
Another bad habit that slows down reading speed is going back and re-reading a line or phrase every time you think you may have missed a word. In many cases, going back to read the line again does not really improve comprehension. Simply eliminating this one negative habit could double your reading speed!
Consciously practice making the effort to keep on reading, refusing to back track, until it becomes second nature for you.
Most people when reading will sweep their eyes across each line of print from left to right. When they get to the end of the line at the right, their eyes jump to the beginning of the next line at the left. This is not always necessary, and it will slow you down. If you are reading columns that are not very wide, you may not need to sweep your eyes across every line from left to right. Practice looking at the center of the lines, and move your eyes down the column of print. See if you can still take in the meaning of the entire line this way.
How can you tell if you still understand the material when you increase your reading speed? How do you know if you are missing something important? Getting through an article faster is of little benefit if you don’t understand most of it, or if you miss some vital points.
Every time you finish an exercise to improve your reading speed, ask yourself, “What was the article about? What were the main points? What were the supporting arguments presented?”
Write down what you understood and can remember. Then go back and read the original more slowly and carefully. Check it against what you have remembered. Were you correct in your understanding of what the article was about? Did you understand most of the main points? Did you miss anything important?
Keep track of how your reading scores change over time. With practice you should be able to greatly improve your reading speed while maintaining a good level of comprehension.
Retraining your eyes and brain may require a committed effort on your part, but the results will be worth it in terms of reading speed gained. Stay relaxed and confident while you practice.