The average person reads at a rate of about 225 words per minute (wpm). Jim Kwik, on the other hand, can read at a rate of 1,300 wpm… Plus, he remembers and retains everything he reads. Now that’s speed reading.
Here’s the thing, though, Kwik wasn’t always so kwik. In fact, he suffered head trauma when he was 5 years old that slowed down his ability to learn (or so he thought). He fell far behind in school due to this and struggled to keep up with the others kids. His seemingly incessant slow learning was almost the cause of his undoing.
It wasn’t until he was in college that he decided to give his learning difficulty a bit more attention. So, he thought a lot about learning — these thoughts then led him to delve into the concept of meta-learning, or learning how to learn (something we are strangely not taught how to do in school). He then decided to focus his attention on simply learning how to learn — on how to make learning his superpower!
Now, his impressive intelligence is known worldwide. As well, he has set up many Schools for Superheroes, which specialize in helping people attain their natural-born superpowers (without needing to be bit by a spider). One of these superpowers is speed reading.
Kwik emphasizes the importance of speed reading by explaining:
The average person reads 200-250 words-per-minute and spends 3 to 4 hours of their work day reading. That’s more than one-third of their time on the job. If that person makes $60,000 a year, then at least $20,000 of that money is paying for them to read. But proper training can easily double the average person’s reading speed (up to 400-450 w.p.m.). That cuts 3 to 4 hours down to 1 to 2. That’s a savings of over an hour a day. If you do that for 365 days a year, that’s 9 different 40 hour work weeks saved. That’s real time productivity. Imagine what you could do with all that extra time.
Excited yet? Good, we are, too.
This article will help to not only debunk any speed reading myths you may have heard, but it will give you all of the necessary tips to at least double your reading speed (yes, we said at least).
To Read Faster Does NOT Mean to Comprehend Less
When we read, we oftentimes completely forget what we just read. How often do you have to go back and re-read the page you just read? This happens because we usually can’t seem to maintain focus when we read.
Have you ever noticed that when you listen to someone speak really slowly, you easily lose focus? This is because our brains combine information with emotion— if we are bored (and thus, are experiencing the lowest level of emotion possible), we won’t remember what we read. Plus, when our brains aren’t being stimulated enough, they will search for things to keep them occupied (outside distractions), which also greatly interrupt concentration and, thus, comprehension.
So, for this reason, slow readers tend to lose focus — because they read slow. It is for this same reason that people who read faster comprehend the most— their brains are so stimulated that their focus stays razor sharp.
Know Your Starting Point
Before we dive into how to improve your reading speed, it is important for you to know your starting point. You can give yourself a reading test to see where your reading speed is at now. You can easily do this by setting a timer for 1 minute and see how many words you can read within that time. If you are looking for a more accurate wpm average, try setting your timer at 2 minutes, then divide the number of words you are able to read into two.
Use a Visual Pacer
This tip is absolutely brilliant.
Remember what we mentioned above about maintaining focus? Well, our brains (and eyes) are attracted to movement— it’s an instinct we’ve had since we were cavemen. When we use a pacer, such as a finger or a pencil, to move across the words as we read them, our focus is improved because our attention is directed through the words or information instead of wandering sporadically about.
Children do this naturally. How cool is that? Do you remember doing this? Unfortunately, many teachers taught us to stop at an early age.
What’s the best pacer to use?
Your left index finger. Yep, specifically your left.
This is because your left hand activates the right side of your brain.
Our right brain’s are associated with imagination and creativity, while our left brains are more associated with logic and words. So, for the most part, reading is a left-brain skill— and, our right-brains can quickly feel left out, bored, and thus begin to wander… This can cause ruthless distraction!
So, in order to keep your right brain happy and activated, use your left index finger as a pacer while you read. Plus, information is best stored when our entire brain is activated.
Pretty neat stuff.
Subvocalization is that voice in your head (or even as a soft whisper) that you hear as you read.
Your thinking speed far exceeds your talking speed; so, by saying the words in your head as you read, you are automatically slowing your reading speed to your talking speed, when really, it can be just as fast as your thinking speed.
For instance, John F. Kennedy had a talking speed of about 300 wpm; however, his reading speed is said to have been 1,000 wpm. That’s a significant difference!
It is important to know that you do not need to pronounce words in your head in order to comprehend them— you automatically know them by sight.
We know, this whole “no subvocalization” tip is a bit strange. For most people, it initially feels unnatural. However, by practicing reducing your subvocalization, you can train your brain to quiet this voice and, in turn, greatly improve your reading speed. Here are some tips to help you do so:
What a silly tip, we know: read faster in order to read faster.
However, this concept of stretching your ability and reading faster than you normally do will force your inner voice to quiet down. It does this because our brains are naturally lazy and always looking for shortcuts. These shortcuts will take the form of skipping the pronunciation of unimportant filler words, such as “and” or “like.”
This is a great step to take — the more your brain gets used to saying less out loud, the less it will want to say out loud (after all, our brains are lazy, right? They will appreciate this over time).
Stop the lip movements
Do you ever find yourself moving your mouth to the sound of that inner voice? In order to improve your reading speed, this has to stop. This greatly slows you down. You can stop your mouth from moving by either holding something in your mouth or by chewing gum (which is supposed to help you learn, anyway).
Listen to music
Music without lyrics, that is; classical music or even binaural beats works greatly. Baroque music is also great as it runs at 60 beats per minute, which is the same rhythm of our hearts, so it helps to give our mind’s a healthy running pace.
Music is great because it helps to minimize/drown out the sound of that pesky inner voice.
If you are looking for even more speed reading tips, check out this article. For now, however, begin incorporating these! Take your initial test to see where you are, practice these tricks for a couple of days, then test yourself again to see how your reading speed has improved.