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Tips for increasing reading speed

  • As the eyes move across the page they make a series of jerky movements. Whenever they come to rest on a word that is called a fixation. Most people fixate once on each word across a line of print.
  • Take in more words with each fixation. Try to avoid focusing at groups of 2 to 3 words. For instance, this sentence could be grouped in this manner:
    for instance / this sentence / could be grouped / in this manner
  • Make our eyes move faster.
  • Familiarize yourself with new words so you don't get stuck on them when you read them again. Work on vocabulary improvement.
  • If you find yourself moving your lips when reading, force yourself to read faster so that you can no longer move your lips.
  • Read more! 10-20 minutes a day of reading an average size novel equals 18 books a year at an average reading speed!
  • Determine your purpose before reading. If you only need main ideas, then allow yourself to skim the material. Don't feel you must read very word.
  • There are several books on increasing reading speed available in most bookstores. If you are serious about increasing your rate you may want to work systematically through one of these books.
  • Spend a few minutes a day reading at a faster than comfortable rate (about 2 to 3 times faster than your normal speed). Use your hand or an index card to guide your eyes down the page. Then time yourself reading a few pages at your normal speed. You'll find that often your normal reading speed will increase after your skimming practice.
  • Simply reading the title, subtitle, bold type, last paragraph and first paragraph--spend only 30-45 seconds. Then reflect on the relevance of the information for you. If it is important to read more, go to the next step. Otherwise, find another article. Get 80% of the information in 20% of the time.
  • If you have poor concentration when reading, practice reading for only 5 - 10 minutes at a time and gradually increase this time.
  • Ask yourself What are you looking for?
  • How will you use what you find? Identify the weave of the text:
  • Underline the author�s explanation of the main points. (Often, but not always, a writer will tell an engaged reader where the text is going.)
  • Underline each major new claim that the author makes in developing the text and write "claim 1," "claim 2," and so on in the margin.
  • Circle major point, of transition from the obvious (subtitles) to the less obvious (phrases like however, on the other hand, for example, and so on).
  • Asterisk major pieces of evidence like statistics or stories or argument note in the margin the kind of evidence and its purpose, for example, "story that illustrates claim."
  • Write "conc." in the margin at points where the writer draws major conclusions. Locate passages and phrases that trigger reactions.
  • Put a question mark next to points that are unclear and note whether you need more information or the author has been unclear or whether the passage just sounds unreasonable or out-of-place.
  • Put an exclamation point next to passages that you react to strongly in agreement, disagreement, or interest.
  • Attach a post-it note next to trigger passages and write a brief reaction as you read.
  • Have your eyes checked. Before embarking on a speed reading program, make sure that any correctable eye defects you may have are taken care of by checking with your eye doctor. Often, very slow reading is related to uncorrected eye defects.
  • Divide a sentences into shorter fragments while you read.

Set a target reading rate at a level slightly higher than the initial reading rate. Use reading materials that are easy and interesting. Practice at least 20 minutes each day at the "pushed" rate. Increase the target rate by small increments as reading improves. Progress may be charted on a daily grid that plots rate and time on the axes. Document progress for at least two weeks.

Move your eyes faster over the text. Instead of taking in three words per fixation, take in six words. Follow the lines with your finger, pen, pencil, or a 3 x 5 index card as you read.

Reduce regressions by raising awareness of them and by improving concentration. To raise awareness, use a 3 x 5 index card to cover words and lines as they are read. When you regress, you will have to move the card to remember what you have read. You will soon notice how often you must stop and move the card. To improve concentration, personalize the subject and create questions related to the material before reading the assignment.

The key to increasing reading rate is practice. Realize that reading speed will not increase over night, but that the process will take some time. Don't give up. 

Do you need Speed reading skills?

I took a software in speed reading several years ago and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. It's not for pleasure reading, or for any book you really want to immerse yourself in, but it is excellent for research and very dry material. Taking it in as chunks, as mentioned above, is the big key. Comprehension and retention were better for me than when I just plodded through. I also found I have to do it on a fairly regular basis to keep the skills up.





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