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Who can improve their reading?

Some people read fast and remember everything. Others read slowly and take a couple of times to get all the information. It doesn't matter, really, so long as when you read, you get the information you're seeking.

Not every one is ready to benefit from learning methods of increasing reading speed. A man who has difficulty understanding what he or she reads will not be helped by learning to misunderstand faster. Rather, techniques for deriving meaning from one's reading are more helpful. A student who is hampered by a limited vocabulary will be helped more by building word knowledge, so that puzzling over unknown words will not slow one down.

There are two main approaches to improving reading skills: speed reading, which increases the number of words that can read in a minute, and use of reading strategies to extract information from a text in the most effective way possible. Speed reading is covered elsewhere within Mind Tools. This article will concentrate on effective use of reading strategies.

You will find that you are can fix your eyes on one block of several words, then moving your eyes to the next block of words. You can reading blocks of words at one time (not individual words one-by-one). You can notice you do not always go from one block to the next (sometimes you may move back).

Even when you know how to ignore irrelevant detail, there are other technical improvements you can make to your reading style that will increase your reading speed.

A poor reader will become bogged down, spending a lot of time reading:

  • Small blocks of words.
  • Losing the flow and structure of the text and overall understanding of the subject.
  • Skip back often,

This irregular eye movement will make reading tiring. Poor readers tend to dislike reading, and may find it harder to concentrate and understand written information.


Bad reading habits

Improved comprehension almost always results from eliminating bad reading habits. PR can quickly help individuals end the following eighteen bad reading habits:

  • Poor decoding.
  • Poor fluency. This includes rushing past commas instead of pausing (which can produce situational dyslexia, easily corrected). dissonance. Cognitive projection. Cognitive projection as one reads regularly.
  • Blaming real physical issues for what is often just a simple lack of proper modeling: lisp, speech defect.
  • No or poor use of auditory memory. No or poor use of visual memory. No thinking about what the sentence means.
  • No sensing music of sentence.
  • No hearing an inner voice.
  • Poor automatically.
  • Sub vocalization and lip reading; not reading fast enough.
  • Guessing when stumped instead of backing up and sounding out text (trying different possible pronunciations if necessary): An individual word. Cognitive
  • Reading too fast.
  • No outlining (for preview and use during reading or review).
  • No review as one reads by having each sentence repeated
  • Poor and limited use of dictionary due to six problems which are easily corrected.
  • Improper lighting of text; contrast and brightness problems.
  • Physical discomfort while reading/typing (easily corrected): Books are not automatically held open at the right height and distance while you sit upright and relaxed, with proper neck, back and shoulder support (instead, reader crouches over book). Head must be turned back and forth from paper to monitor when typing. Keyboard, monitor and printed text should all be in-line.


Comparison of efficient and slow readers

The efficient reader . . . The slow reader . . .
Reads ideas. Reads words.
Reads multi-word phrases. Reads one word at a time.
Visualizes ideas. Vocalizes words.
Sets a purpose. Reads to "the end of the book."
Adjusts reading speed to need. Reads everything slowly and deliberately.
Keeps reading. Re-reads sentences to be sure of understanding.
Has a large vocabulary in that subject area. Has a limited vocabulary in that area.
Uses a pacer. Lets eyes wander.
Practices speeded reading daily. Rarely attempts speeded reading.
Marks text for memory. Leaves pages pristine and clean.
Sorts materials as critical, interesting, or trash. Reads everything indiscriminately.


Causes of slow reading speeds

Individual variables --intelligence, motivation, physiological and psychological traits. Deficiencies in vocabulary and comprehension levels required by the particular reading material. A student who has difficulty understanding what he/she reads will not be helped by learning to misunderstand faster. A student who is hampered by an inadequate vocabulary will not be helped by learning to skip any faster through unknown or vaguely defined words.

Most frequent causes of unnecessarily slow speeds when the causes listed in A and B above are at adequate levels: 

  1. Inflexibility--the tendency to read everything the same way regardless of what it is, why it is being read, etc.
  2. Passivity--the failure to become involved with the material being read, the failure to interact with the author and to anticipate his next thought, his conclusions, etc.
  3. Unnecessary and habitual regression or re-reading -- because of lack of concentration.
  4. Habitually slow "reaction time" to reading material -- a general "rut" which makes attempts at faster reading extremely uncomfortable at first.

We have attempted to point out the relationship between rate of reading and extent of comprehension, as well as the necessity for adjustment of reading rate, along with whole reading attack, to the type of material and the purposes of the reader. The factors which reduce rate were surveyed as a basis for pointing out that increase in rate should come in conjunction with the elimination of these retarding aspects of the reading process and as a part of an overall reading training program where increase in rate is carefully prepared for in the training sequence.


The reasons why you read slowly

There are three major reasons for our slow reading:

  • Sub vocalization. We can only read as fast as we can speak.
  • Poor eye fixation technique and Low eye focus. Reading Word For Word - 60% of words we read are structure words, not content words. This slows us down dramatically.
  • Incorrect reading habits. The average reader moves back over words or phrases 20 times per page. This means we are rereading the same things over again and we do it about 1/6 of the time.
  • Readers who read slowly often express fears that they will not be able to understand unless they read everything very slowly and carefully. The evidence suggests that this is not the case.

Many slow readers try to remember every single piece of information. This is unrealistic and unnecessary. Some points will be very important to the essay, report or exam that you are preparing for, and you will need to note the details precisely. Usually, you are only required to gain an overall understanding from the text that you are reading.

Poor Eye Fixation Technique.

This means that as you read your eyes tend to fix on many different points on the same line, as well as going back over areas already read.

Your eyes jump all over the place, from line to line, word to word. You often read the same word several times, and often the whole line several times. This slows you down greatly, and actually reduces your understanding of what you have read. The next section will show you how to use a visual guide to minimize this effect.

Improving your eye fixation techniques will mean that each eye movement will now be useful, rather than causing confusion in your mind by re-reading material out of logical order. Over reading the same phrase, line or section does not help your comprehension, it actually reduces it. It causes loss of the order of your material, and also tends to make your mind wander more while you are reading.

If you follow the order of the text your understanding and comprehension will improve, and it is less likely that at the end of the page you realize you were not paying attention and have no idea what you just read.

Who are less efficient  readers

  • They see and read one word at a time.
  • They have lower levels of comprehension because they are unable to derive the meaning of new words from the context.
  • They limiting reading speeds to 160-220 words per minute
  • They vocalize or sub vocalize each word as it is read.
  • They eyes fixate on each word.
  • They Re-read words.

Who are fluent readers

  • They see and read groups of words.
  • Have higher levels of comprehension because they are reading groups of words.
  • Dispel the popular myth that one must read slowly to have good comprehension.
  • They brain is capable of handling thousands of words per minute.
  • They do not vocalize the words.
  • They do not reread words.


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