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Understanding Speed Reading
by Brandon C. Hall
Speed reading is not just a parlor trick you can use to impress your friends and family. For many it’s a necessary tool for managing time and information in the fast-paced business world, and for many others, specifically students, it’s the only way to get through reading-heavy class loads.
The practiced speed reader can pick up a lengthy document or a thick stack of papers and use their skill to get at the meat of the subject by skimming for the most important details and information. Without developing the ability to speed read, this time-saving technique is merely flipping through pages fast.
Speed reading, or increasing the rate at which you read text, is linked to increasing the rate at which you understand what you’re reading. The key to successful speed reading is increasing your understanding of the text as you increase the rate at which you read the words. It takes training and practice, but don’t be intimidated by the idea of a challenge. Think of it as the next, natural step to your reading development. Once you’ve mastered it, it’s a skill that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
As a child, when you began to learn to read, chances are you began with the alphabet and the specific sounds each letter makes. Then you learned how to combine and blend letter sounds to decipher words. It’s called letter-by-letter reading. Then something clicked and you began to recognize words without having to sound out each letter one at a time and you graduated to word-by-word reading.
With continued practice common words and sentence structure became more familiar and because your brain was tuned and ready, your eye started taking in blocks of words at a time. The difference between average readers and speed readers is in the blocks of words their eyes take in at one time. The larger the blocks, the faster your eye moves through the text.
Speed reading teaches you how to take your reading and your comprehension to the next level. The techniques used in teaching speed reading focus on your individual abilities, namely where you are right now and what might be keeping you from progressing. For example, if you are a slow reader, factors that hold you back may include, but are not limited to, moving your lips or reading out loud or holding the text too close to your eyes.
If you are in the practice of moving your lips, or speaking or whispering while you read, you’re slowing yourself down dramatically. Your lips can only move so fast. You should be able to read at least two or three times faster than you can speak. In effect, you’re keeping yourself at that word-by-word stage that children generally grow out of in elementary school.
Having the ability to speed read can make a significant difference in your life, especially if reading is a strong component of your work. Implementing some simple techniques can get you reading faster and more efficiently in no time at all.