What Is Speed Reading?
Reading engages the eyes, ears, mouth, and brain. Speed reading engages these senses even more than normal reading because you use your senses and brain power even more efficiently. The following sections what goes on in your eyes, ears, mouth, and brain when you speed read.
Speed reading is seeing
The first step in reading anything is seeing the words. But how do you see words on the page when you read? Prior to the 1920s, researchers believed that people read one word at a time. To read, they thought, you moved your eyes left to right across the page, taking in one word after the other. Under this theory, fast readers were people who could identify and recognize words faster.
However, all but beginning readers have the ability to see and read more than one word at a time. As you move your eyes across the page, you jump ahead in fits and starts, taking in from one to five words at a time in quick glances. Speed reading builds on these quick glances:
You read several words in a single glance unless you’re encountering words you don’t know or haven’t read before.
You expand your vision so that you can read and understand many words in a single glance.
You expand your vision to read vertically as well as horizontally on the page. As well as taking in more than one word on a line of text, speed readers can also, in a single glance, read and understand words on two or three different lines.
Speed reading is silent reading
When you read, you speak words to yourself (aloud or in your head) because you learned to read with the sound-it-out method. In school, your teacher taught that you can always read a word by sounding out the letters and letter combinations, and he was right. Being able to sound out words is an essential skill for beginning readers.
The problem with the sound-it-out approach to reading is that it slows you down. You read not at the speed you think but rather at the speed you talk. Sounding it out is fine for beginning readers, but at some point you have to dispense with sound if you want to be a speed reader. Saying the words, even if you only whisper them inside the confines of your skull, takes time.
In speed-reading terminology, saying and hearing words as you read them is called vocalizing. Remember that
Vocalizing is a throwback to your early reading education; you must abandon it to be a speed reader.
Training yourself not to vocalize when you read is one of the most important speed-reading skills you can acquire.
Speed reading is comprehending
The purpose of reading is to comprehend what you read. How well you comprehend what you read is determined by your reading speed, the breadth of your vocabulary, and your degree of familiarity with the subject matter.
Speed reading actually increases reading comprehension. Because you read several words at a time when you speed read, you can pick up the meaning of words in context. Speed reading also has a snowball effect on the size of your vocabulary and general knowledge, which increases your reading speed.
Speed reading is concentrating
All reading requires concentration, if only for a moment. Speed reading, however, requires sustained, forceful concentration because, when you speed read, you do many things at once. To speed read well, you must see and read the words on the page, remain alert to the author’s main ideas, think along with the author and detect how she presents the material so you can pin down the main ideas, and read with more perspective to separate the details from weightier stuff. You have to know when to skim, when to read fast, and when to slow down to get the gist of it.