Notes on speed reading

Written on 20 December 2013, 11:05pm

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skater boy
Some ideas that I want to note after reading the Speed Reading Book.

First, some basics. The reading speed is usually measured in words per minute (wpm), but it is always checked against the comprehension level. A speed of 200-250 wpm with a 60-70% comprehension are considered average.

Second, what not to do:

  • Don’t use subvocalization (unless you are doing it voluntary).
  • Don’t re-read the text (voluntary – regression, or involuntary – back-skipping).
  • Don’t stop when you find a word you don’t know. You can figure it out by reading on.
  • Don’t make yourself too comfortable when reading. It’s easier to be distracted when you’re reading in bed or on the couch.

What to do:

  • Create a reading environment: you should read at your desk, maintaining a correct posture and making sure you have adequate light. Take regular breaks, but avoid distractions.
  • Set yourself a goal before starting to read (usually a number of chapters)
  • Keep the reading material at about 50 centimeters from your eyes (of course, the font size or the font face might force you to adjust this distance). Not holding the book too close from your eyes allows the peripheral view to kick in.
  • Use your finger as a pacer and impose yourself a fast rhythm (the kids are using it, and so are you when looking up a word in a dictionary). It also helps maintain concentration.
  • Aim for larger fixations (group of words that you read before moving your eyes). This is the reason why the narrow columns are easy to read: one line – one fixation.
  • Preview the material before reading it. This is known as skimming, and it’s different from scanning, which means looking for a particular information in a text (ex – name in phone number book). Look for the summary, beginnings and end of sections, figures, keywords. This will give you an idea about what the text is about.

Remember that:

  • Poor concentration and lack of motivation are the main obstacles of speed reading
  • it’s your brain that reads – your eyes are simply the very sophisticated lenses it uses
  • The kids are always right 🙂

There are also a major issue where I don’t agree with the author. This is the comprehension level. The author makes a point in stating that everybody can attain reading speeds of 1000 wpm, but without any word about the comprehension. The speed reading records of 2000-3800 wpm are presented without the associated comprehension levels. The idea that comprehension increases with the reading speed is only backed up by the fact that the brain reads better when the information is grouped in “meaningful bundles”.

So, in my opinion there are definitely things that you can do to improve your reading speeds. But as long as you wish to understand, assimilate and later recall the information you read, don’t expect to jump from 200wpm to 2000wpm.

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