For years I considered myself a slow reader. But it wasn’t until I began to use an electronic reader that I understood just how slow. Routinely I would dawdle over a page of newspaper text for so long, that my iPad would time out and close up the document, thinking I wasn’t there anymore. I was that slow.
Then I calculated what faster reading would mean for me. Between newspapers, magazines, and books, I spend 30 minutes to an hour reading every day. If I could just double my reading speed, it would save me hours every week, and weeks every year. Who wouldn’t want that? I sure do.
I tested several methods of increasing reading speed, which I’ll tell you about in a minute. First, I’d like to share one simple technique you can use that can significantly improve both your reading speed and your comprehension – that is, how much you understand and recall of what you’ve read.
Many people are slowed down in their reading because their active minds are wandering as they read. This was one of my problems. Every idea, every sentence sent me off in some other direction, at least for a few seconds. Another habit that can slow our reading is the practice of re-reading a section.
To help address these issues, keep a plain index card or blank paper with your reading material. Place the card ABOVE the sentence you’re reading and push it down the page as you read. Set a pace that’s just a little ahead of your habitual, comfortable reading speed.
Using a card to help push your eyes along does two things. First, it prevents re-reading by covering up previous paragraphs. And it urges us, like runners in training, to pick up the pace a bit. When our minds are fully engaged in keeping up with the advancing card, there is no time for woolgathering. And when we are more focused on our reading, our comprehension improves as well.
This was one of the happiest surprises that I found. When I read faster, I also got more out of what I had read.
This technique alone increased my reading speed by 100 percent, and I’m not unusual in this result. Doubling your reading speed is in easy reach for most people.
If you’d like more help to read faster, there are lots of resources available.
To get dramatic results with a minimal investment, you might try Bobbi DePorter’s book Quantum Reading, the Power to Read Your Best. At just 55 pages, this little book contains just a handful of quick strategies along with a brief explanation of how and why they work. But if you put those strategies into practice, you’ll get a great payoff in faster reading speed and more free time.
Another book is 10 Days to Faster Reading by the most famous name in speed-reading, Abby Marks Beale. Co-authored with The Princeton Language Institute, this book is both comprehensive and simple. If you learn well from a book, this is a great one.
If you’d rather take an online class, Abby Marks Beale offers Rev It Up Reading. This online course consists of nine modules of half an hour each. It includes automatic timers so you can track your improvement, and there is email support available at all times. The course currently costs $199, which buys you access for a limited time, after which the course goes away. You can find all the details at RevItUpReading.com.
If you’d rather own your course permanently, another option is the Photo Reading CD course by Learning Strategies Corporation. Photo Reading contains all the basic principles of other speed-reading programs, with the addition of CDs aimed at improving memory and related skills. Some of the language and imagery is somewhat esoteric, to go with the company’s other offerings, which include dousing, feng shui and subliminal learning. And there are suggestions that a reading speed of 45,000 words per minute, while not typical, is possible. Whatever you think about those aspects, the course does work to double and triple your current reading speed. The course is currently listed on the Learning Strategies.com website at $530.
As with learning any new skill, practice is key. But the investment of time in improving your reading speed will be repaid in hours and weeks.