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Sunday, February 17, 2013

If you can't read faster than a cat . . . YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

I took a speed reading course quite a while ago. I think I’d watched a movie where a character read books like the pages were on fire, and I had to give it a try. I have to admit, I am pleased with the results. No, I can’t scream though a book about quantum mechanics in a few minutes, and I’m not blasting through novel-length material in minutes either. But it did have a dramatic impact on my reading speed and I can comfortably get through most novels in a couple hours.

I’m not going to explain all the techniques I learned. I’m not qualified to teach it, and I am not sure I could condense the material into a few sentences :\. But if you take a course or two, I’ll say that the most helpful techniques I learned were: silent reading (how to stop saying the words in my head), and how using movement and peripheral vision can reduce eye-fatigue. Another thing I learned was that reading speed is a range. When you read technical material you go slower than if you’re reading a magazine article about the latest Hollywood breakup.  Knowing some techniques raises that range, but it’s always a range, so any test of reading speed is directly related to what you’re reading.

With that in mind, I don’t power through novels when I read them either. I like to spend a bit more time with the words. But magazine articles, or online opinion pieces I read to kill time whist waiting in a doctor’s office, those I can read pretty quickly. A couple times when a book was discussed in a book club, I did push myself to get it done on short notice, but I find I miss some of the intricacies of the language and some of the subtle plot points if I go too fast. Point is, it’s a useful skill, and I actually encourage people to learn a few of the techniques.

Just for kicks, here’s a link to a reading-speed test that you might find fun. I suggest approaching it the way you read a novel. Don’t try to race through it. A brief quiz after the piece tests your comprehension and doing the test twice will skew the results (since it’ll be your second time reading the piece and comprehension will be better). 

Let me leave you with a quote, the implications of which I completely agree with.

Have any of you guys taken a speed reading course? Did it help? Oh, and FWIW, when I took the test and read the piece at the speed I read novels, it said I was reading just under 700 wpm. But again, material makes a difference (digital vs. print makes a difference too). I'm not going to read Macbeth that fast, or even anything by Dr. Seuss for that matter - those guys were poets, they almost demand to be read aloud!


Tracey Joseph said...

I took the quiz. It was fun. I finished in 47 seconds, 6% slower than the national average or something like that. I've always been a slow reader for the most part.

Like you, I prefer to take my time while reading a novel. It makes my time spent reading all the more enjoyable. :D

Kelley Lynn said...

I'v never taken one of these. I think I might have to do this! We'll see how I do :) Thanks for the link!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Yeah. I took a course once but since most of my reading requires attention to detail or leisure reading I haven't ever really used it.

JeffO said...

Never done it myself, though I used to marvel over all those people in the Evelyn Wood commercials. Never known anyone personally that did it, either.

Dana said...

That's a great quote!

When I was a kid, I saw an article about speed reading in one of my mother's magazines, so I tried to teach myself. I remember thinking it was fun, but I don't remember much about the techniques. Maybe I'll look into it again.

Have a great Tuesday!

Lisa said...

I have never taken a speed reading class, but I've always been interested in it. One of my friends has and she is such a fast reader, it kind of puts me to shame.

Sherry Ellis said...

I've never taken a speed reading course, but I generally read pretty fast. The exception is when I'm reading technical material, or material related to my work, and I want to make sure everything sinks in.

Misha Gericke said...

I've never taken a speed reading test either. For some reason, I can silent read naturally, although I often don't.

Also, I read faster the more I read. So I can read two 400+ page novels in about 12 hours, most of the time. The first usually takes me about 7.

The Brunette Librarian said...

I've always wanted to know how to do that! Speed reading is pretty interesting to watch and I think it'd be a handy skill to have :)

maine character said...

Awesome link. I always thought I read much slower than everyone, but it said I'm an average US adult (um... maybe that's not so good), and 20% faster than the national average. But whoa... way slower than professors and students and speed readers.

But hey, I got all three questions right.

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