To speed or not to speed? What’s the value of speed reading?

LOGO_medium (1)Given the volume of homework these days, students know it is not only extremely important to read speedily, but also to comprehend what they are reading.

Many experts tout speed reading classes (even Presidents Kennedy and Carter took classes at the White House), and there are a slew of speed reading apps now available. The best way to increase your speed is to practice these top three strategies from Mind Tools website:

*Stop Sub-vocalization which is the habit of pronouncing each word in your head as you read it. Even if you don’t mouth the words silently as you read, most people do imagine the spoken words to some extent. When you sub-vocalize, you “hear” the word being spoken in your mind. This takes much more time, because you’re limited to reading at the same pace as talking, which is only 250-350 words per minute. To turn off the voice in your head, you have to practice “not speaking” and be mindful of when it starts to happen. If you are physically moving your lips as you read, hold a finger against them.

*Use Meta Guiding to force your eye to move faster along the passage. By visually guiding your eye with a finger or pointer (such as a pen), you can also help to reduce sub-vocalization, thereby speeding up reading efficiency even more. Because meta guiding encourages the eye to skim over the text, it can force your brain and eyes to work together to get the important concepts from each paragraph.

*Eliminate Backward Eye Movements by expanding your reading gaze and “chunking” together larger blocks of words. Train yourself to read a whole group of words at once instead of each word separately. Regression can also become a habit where you skip back to words you’ve already read to make sure you got the exact meaning, but this slows down your speed considerably. To overcome this, “soften” your gaze when you read and relax your face. Also attempt to expand your gaze and utilize more of your peripheral vision. You will begin to see blocks of words and your eyes will skip faster and faster across the page.

The average reading speed by age group (from Staples®) was found to be:

  • Third-grade students = 150 wpm
  • Eight grade students = 250 wpm
  • Average adult = 300 wpm
  • Average college student = 450 wpm
  • Average “high level executive” = 575 wpm
  • College professors = 675 wpm
  • Speed readers = 1,500 wpm
  • World champion = 4,700 wpm

Studies have shown the typical adult reads an average 200-300 words per minute. So, if you wanted to read a 250-page book with 500 words per page, you would spend roughly 10 1/2 hours completing it.

Most of us don’t even come close to Anna Jones, the six-time World Champion. That’s okay. In 2007, she demonstrated her Mind Sport skill by doing a public reading of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” at a London bookstore. She finished in a record-breaking time of 47 minutes and one second (which is 4,251 words per minute). She then reviewed the book for newspaper and TV reporters!

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