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Published March 24th 2013
Top tips to increase your reading speed
Image by Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I love reading, especially large fiction novels - the type that are so thick you can use them to chock doors open with, or use as a step to get things down from the pantry.
Problem is, I'm a slow reader. Combine this with two small children, and this means it takes me absolutely ages to finish a book. So I've decided its time to do something about it.
I recently bought a book called (funnily enough) "The Speed Reading Book" by Tony Buzan (published by BBC Worldwide), which is full of useful ways to increase your reading speed. I was a bit of a skeptic at first, but having now read the book, I must say I'm a convert to speed reading! And all I needed was a chopstick. Well, there's a little more to it than that, but more on the chopstick later.
So here's three easy tips from Tony's book to help you speed-read your way through anything:
1. Its all in the eyes Next time you are reading, pay attention to the way your eyes behave on the page. Do they skim smoothly over the words in a sweeping flow, or do you find that your eyes flicker back and forth, re-reading words, then reading on, only to revert back to earlier text? I was surprised when I realised how much my eyes did jump backwards and forwards when I was reading. In order to improve your reading speed, focus on making your eyes sweep each line in a continuous flow. Do not let your eyes flick backwards to previous words. It has been proven that with a little practice you will not lose any comprehension of the text, and your reading speed will be greatly increased.
2. The chopstick This is one I would never have thought of. Tony's book suggests the use of an implement to guide the eyes over the page (this is where the chopstick comes in). Using a pointing device to focus your gaze as you read will increase your reading speed. It doesn't have to be a chopstick - anything long and pointy will do - it can be a knitting needle, pen, kebab stick (clean of course!) or even your finger if you have nothing else. Although it seems like regression to follow words on a page with a device, try this simple experiment which will show you the power of focus. a) Get a friend to stand in front of you (about a metre away). b) Ask them to imagine there is a circle in the air between the two of you, about 20cm diameter. c) Tell them to follow the circumference of the imaginary circle with their eyes, making a perfect circle shape.
d) Watch their eyes closely as they do this.
You will find that their eyes make anything but a lovely round shape. Their eyes instead will dart around in a jagged manner. Now repeat the experiment, but this time, draw the circle in the air with your finger and ask them to follow it. Perfect circle!
Let your guide flow along each line as you read it, and it is sure to improve your reading speed.
3. Fake it till you make it
Once you have mastered the art of reading in a continuous flow, the next step is to start reading in larger chunks (i.e., being able to take in multiple words at once without having to pause after each word to process it, as an ordinary reader does). The best speed readers can often read whole lines and even whole paragraphs in a single glance (President Franklin Roosevelt was apparently able to do this). They can often read two lines at a time, and make use of their peripheral vision to read, which gives rise to the belief that speed readers read down the middle of the page.
Tony suggests practising your speed reading techniques (continuous flow with no backtracking, reading more words with each fixation of your eyes, using your peripheral vision to take in more), to read materials even at speeds which leave you with only minimal comprehension of the text (you'll know what this feels like once you've tried the speed reading techniques above - you are mechanically reading the words, but your recall is horrible!) Apparently if you do this often enough, your brain will catch up and start to comprehend texts at the increased speeds.
So there you have three ways to increase your reading speed. If you've got more interest in the subject, why not buy Tony's book and try it for yourself - it has lots of exercises and tests to rate yourself as well as plenty of information about speed reading. And just in case you were wondering, the current speed reading champion is Anne Jones, who reads at over 4000 words per minute!