Like a runner, read a book as if you were racing. Abby Marks Beale, bestselling author and reading ambassador, has developed speed-reading strategies to help you sprint marathons and see reading differently. It is important to break bad habits first, so we can learn new reading techniques and improve our ability to remember information quickly. The skill of speed-reading promotes confidence and helps you live with more intention than just increasing your ‘words per minute.
I have often wished I could learn how to read faster overnight, as I am currently drowning in my massive to-read pile. Even if you’re a fast reader, I’ll wager that you’ve thought about reading even faster at some point in your life. There are so many books, but not enough time for us to read them all. Are there any ways to speed up the process?
If you don’t get started early enough, you might be tempted to stop trying altogether. My own reading history proves that this is not true. During the past year, I read more books than I ever have before, surpassing my goal for the year by ten books. As a result of more time dedicated to reading, I would not have been able to do this without actually reading faster.
Most speed reading tricks and tips are just that, tricks. When we don’t read the entire page or skip less important chapters, it hinders our desire to enjoy more books. This isn’t something I care about. These tips for how to read faster won’t let you skimp on comprehension:
1. Read the text or scan it first.
High school was the time when I got the Evelyn Wood Seven-Day Speed Reading & Learning Program, which I thought would fix all of my problems. My first reaction was to skim all of the text, as it suggested. It seemed counterproductive to do the same thing twice.
In any case, you will be prepared for future challenges if you skim and scan for the most important pieces of information first. As you are already familiar with the main points, you won’t be surprised by confusing or surprising parts of the text as you read.
While skimming and scanning are more effective with non-fiction, they are also valid with fiction. In a novel, pay attention to character development, dialogue, and the main plot. Read it at a faster pace than usual.
2. Don’t Subvocalize
The primary reason we read slowly is subvocalization. Reading is a lot like speaking – we think the words in our heads. In most cases, we read at a speed of 300 words a minute, which is low. At a snail’s pace!
Words are actually processed much faster by your eyes and brain. Here’s an experiment you can do:
It is possible to nearly double your reading speed if you stop the voice in your head.
The trick to speed-reading is getting yourself to stop if you’re a subvocalist. That is something I’ve tried to do for quite some time. To deal with it, simply be aware of it and find a way to distract yourself. The words can be followed with your finger, music can be listened to, or chewing gum can be chewed.
3. Read Phrases not words
In addition to learning individual words, taking in phrases or chunks of text is also a difficult skill to learn. You can read 9 words at once with your eye span of 1.5 inches, so the difference is not as large as you might think!
Taking in the content at once while looking at every fifth or sixth word will reduce subvocalizing. It will take practice, however, as with everything else. Start with something trivial, like a textbook.
4. Stop rereading
Reading was very time-consuming for me because I constantly had to go back to read sentences or paragraphs that I had either missed reading or needed to reread for better understanding. In my mind, if I couldn’t grasp or comprehend every word in a novel or text, the whole thing wouldn’t make sense.
Eventually, I realized that reading the passage a second time didn’t actually help me understand it any more. After making sense of confusion in context, I enjoyed the book more or they weren’t necessary for me to enjoy it.
It’s been reported that “untrained subjects engage in regression (conscious rereading) and back-skipping (subconscious rereading through misplaced fixation) for on average 30% of total reading time.” That’s a lot. If you let go of trying to comprehend everything you hear or see, you’ll save time not having to re-visit places you’ve already seen.
5. Access More
Learning to read takes time, as with all worthwhile pursuits. Over time, your skills will improve. Before, I thought setting reading goals every day or every year was foolish. There is no need to force yourself to read. In fact, I find that setting goals motivates me to carve out more reading time. As a result, I read more books faster.
Of course, you should always read at your own pace to make the most of a book. Having the ability to read 1800 words a minute might sound great, but I don’t want to be a John Travolta like in Phenomenon.
Who cares if you spend hours on a truly great story? Literature should be enjoyed. As long as there are books in the world, there is only so much time in the day. Rather than rushing through a lot of books you don’t want to read, it’s better to fully enjoy the ones you want to read.
Focus on keywords instead of reading every word.
The meaning of the sentence can be understood without reading the entire sentence. The information you need is stored in keywords longer than three letters. Try indenting instead of writing ‘The rabbit nibbled on his carrot.’ It is a popular method for improving your peripheral vision. A quarter-inch from the beginning and end of the sentence, look towards the middle of the sentence.
As a beginner, this might seem unnatural, so draw some pencil guides down the page as stabilizers. When your gaze is focused on the middle chunk of words in the sentence, the whole phrase will begin to absorb your gaze. Please stop subvocalizing. Subvocalizing refers to accidentally speaking aloud and mumbling the words as you read. You have to slow down your reading because your mind moves faster than your words. Subvocalizing can be overcome by chewing gum or humming along with your reading.
You will be pushed on by the rhythm of these actions and fail to form every word into a sound. Guide yourself with your finger. Your gaze will be drawn to your finger because we are naturally drawn to movement. Zig-zag your finger as fast as you can. In addition to reading faster, you’ll stop subvocalizing every word.
Do the white card trick and see what happens. Some schools teach students to place a white card beneath the line they are reading. When children need to review new vocabulary, this method is helpful. You are effectively slowing yourself down by hiding the sentences that will follow. Reading should not be a double-checking process for competent adult readers. Using the white card, cover the sentences you just read by placing it over the line you are reading.
As a result, you eliminate regression and gain confidence, pushing you forward on the page. Focus is essential to speed. It’s easy to chat, daydream, or send a text message while you’re walking. You’re splitting your attention with these extra actions. But when you run, you have to keep your focus on the task at hand. As with running, going faster increases your focus and makes you more confident.
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