8 Ways to Become a Faster Reader

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We all know we should read and learn more if we want to live a better life, but our time is limited. Some people might think that speed reading is the answer.

Speed Reading is a Myth

You may have pondered the idea of speed reading, but speed reading is not a proven science. If you google the term, you’ll see many well-meaning articles describing various speed reading techniques in detail, like this one, this one and this one

In general, all speed reading methods advocate one or more of the following techniques to read faster:

  • Scan more words at a time and at a quicker pace. 
  • Read without subconsciously vocalizing the words in your head.
  • Don’t go back to re-read any of the text you’ve already read.
  • Spend exactly the same amount of time reading each line. 

However, this article and this one provides compelling reasons as to why speed reading doesn’t work. Here’s a summary of their arguments:

  • The faster you read, the less you will comprehend.
  • Vocalization is the way we have learned to read, so it may be hard-wired and impossible to do without.
  • Regressive eye movements are required because messages may not be laid out in a linear fashion.
  • Certain passages and words are harder to understand than others, so they take longer to digest than the easier parts.

The evidence suggests that speed reading is just another word for “skimming”. Skimming isn’t very good for comprehension. If you read too fast, you won’t read as carefully as you need to. If you want to get better at learning, you need to read to understand at a pace that is right for you.

There is a way to get faster at reading, but it takes time

The way to get fater at reading is simply to read with more focus more often. As you read more and with more focus, you’ll get better at recognizing language structures and get more used to the particular style of the book you’re reading. The more you read, you’ll gain more knowledge in certain areas, and this enables you to understand similar ideas at a faster rate. 

A great way to read with more focus is to read something right before bed, and then read the same thing again the moment you wake up in the morning.

Reading is an activity similar to running or lifting weights. There are some basic techniques to get you started, but what’s most important is to do it often so that your mind and body adapts to it over time. Once you feel comfortable generating more focus into your reading, you can incorporate additional techniques such as skimming.

The real speed reading techniques to help you focus better:

  1. Choose your books wisely. Read well-written books about subjects you’re interested in, or about things that you need to get better at.
  2. Make quality time and space. Set aside time and space just for reading, in a clean, quiet and well lit environment. 
  3. Use the pomodoro technique: Concentrate intensely on reading for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. During the break, physically walk away from the book to change your scenery. Immediately resume reading resuming for another 25 minutes. Do this 3 times and then take a longer 15 minute break. 
  4. Get healthy. Exercise, eat healthy, and sleep well. Keeping your body healthy and feeling good might be the quickest way to boost your focus.
  5. Read with a dictionary. Increasing your vocabulary is a fantastic way to increase your literacy.
  6. Jot down notes. You can create a simple journal by cutting regular printer paper into 4 equal sections and binding them together, or place individual notes in specific locations throughout the book.
  7. Recall important points. After each reading period, try to recall the main points of what you’ve read without looking. Try the same recall practice just before your next reading period. 
  8. Read about speed reading techniques like skimming, peripheral reading and non-vocalization. Skimming and other speed reading techniques can help if you’re already applying these tried-and-true methods of learning.

Conclusion

Skimming can be a useful tool if it supplements more careful and more frequent reading. It can help you gain better reading objectives and to map out locations of interest in the text before a careful re-read. However, by itself, skimming won’t help you learn things faster. To actually get better at reading and learning, you should implement the focus techniques listed above, and read more often using them.

To learn more about the literacy resources on our website, check out this link:
literacynowburnaby.ca/resources

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