Break Old Habits and Learn to Speed Read

We seem to take our ability to read and comprehend what we read for granted, unless we have a learning disability. Something that seems to come naturally was actually a learned behavior, and most of us learned the same way.

Most people read approximately 120 words a minute with good comprehension, and that is comfortable for them. Many don’t see any need to increase their speed, unless they have a lot of material they have to cover in a short period of time. Even if you don’t increase your speed, have you often found yourself having to re-read passages because they didn’t sink in the first time?

Perhaps you heard about speed-reading and dismissed it because you are comfortable with the speed you currently read at. Or you may have dismissed it because you believe speed-reading is a scam. What if I were to tell you that it actually improves your ability to concentrate and comprehend what you read, even if you don’t increase your speed?

That’s right. Speed reading is not just to increase the rate at which you read, but also to help you learn how to read so you can absorb it better. Research supports the claims that those who have taken speed-reading courses or seminars from reputable people actually are able to increase their comprehension and memory, as well as be able to read faster. It is not another pig-in-a-poke.

There are a number of different speed-reading programs available. The type of reading you do (for pleasure, school or research) can dictate the speed you want to learn to read from. Different usage calls for different techniques. Some programs show you how to skim the page and take out the highlights of what is there. With this the emphasis is on speed, and it is fine if you are just reading things that contain a lot of fill (junk).

Other programs have you read the first and last paragraphs of each section, and skim over the middle, believing the most information is at the beginning and end of each paragraph. This may be true, but if you have to know details you will need to read the entire paragraph because the first and last paragraphs are simply summaries.

The best speed-reading courses are built to strengthen your eyes and eye coordination, and help you to eliminate the bad reading habits you learned while growing up. As a child you were probably taught to read one word at a time and sound them out as we go. That works well as we are learning, but many adults still use this process today, although they sound the words out mentally. That takes up a lot of excess time and brainpower.

By training your eyes to take in more area of a page at a time you are able to send more information to your brain to process. You are taking in the whole picture, and what your eyes see they send a signal to your brain. You don’t have to concentrate on each word or letter to visualize the word.

The biggest challenge to anyone learning speed reading is the sub-vocalization, or sounding out the words as you read. Once we realize that we do it we have to train ourselves not to. With speed-reading you retrain your brain by eliminating the processing out loud of every letter or word. Your brain will be learning to recognize only the words important to the material being read without the need to hear them in your head. Only the words that are important to the context of the material become part of the comprehension process. You would be amazed at the speed you will pick up when you stop talking in your head (at 200-300 words a minute) and simply process what you read.

You also eliminate the need to go back and read the material again. You get it the first time!

Speed-reading is not something you will learn overnight. It requires practice, concentration, and the ability to get out of your comfort zone in order to learn a new way to read, until it becomes second nature. Once it is learned you will be amazed at how much more you can read and understand, and how much it has improved their memory skills.

About the Author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory expert. As a memory speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at

Sources:  Comprehension and the Art of Speed Reading by Francis Hesse:

Mind Tools — Speed Reading, Learning to Read more efficiently:

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