The tragedy of the times is that many of the young people that I come in contact with show absolutely no interest in reading. It was Charles William Eliot who wrote -“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers” – and I can only advise people to read as much as they can. It could be anything – a classic, a contemporary novel, or a book on a specific subject; reading will improve you immeasurably as a person. The late Dr. Sarup Singh, a former Chancellor of Delhi University, former Governor of Gujarat and a delightfully witty man, used to read and finish a book every night!
Now for the folks who actually do read – have you ever wanted to read faster but always found it difficult? Well, the good news is that there are ways to improve your reading speed that will allow you to read more in less time. There are techniques that one should adopt in order to increase his or her reading capacity. In fact, it is proven that if adopted, these techniques will help individuals increase their reading capacity to over 70 books per year in addition to making them much smarter readers. However, learning to read faster in not a magic trick but a finely honed skill that one will need to master. The obvious outcome of speed reading is that you will increase the number of words that you read per minute. More importantly, speed reading will definitely increase your passion for reading. When you gain more power over the amount you read per minute, your appetite for reading will expand, hopefully exponentially.
Practice makes perfect. Therefore, do not give up if the results you desire do not materialize almost immediately. Keep at it and you will be surprised by the constant progress you are making. In time, you will be able to read close to 800 words per minute, giving you the opportunity to read more.
I am outlining below some of the better tips you should follow in order to read faster:
The point of a pointer!
When reading, our eyes usually do not remain at one spot as they constantly twitch and move from the main centre of focus to collect information from sources around them. These movements are commonly referred to as ‘saccades’. When your eyes do twitch, they must come back to their normal position. Saccades make readers slow down even as they search for their present reading position. Therefore, one of the best solutions to counter the small, rapid, jerky movement of the eyes is to use the help of a pointer.
One of the best used pointers is the index finger. Simply place your finder under the text you are reading, moving it along even as you complete each line. Initially, using your finger as a pointer may be slower than your regular reading habit. However, once you are accustomed to the motion, you will be adept at reading faster and more efficiently.
Speed reading: control or speed?
It is a common belief that speed reading is all about control and not speed; it is all about controlling the reading rate and not necessarily about reading faster. The ability to control the way you read will allow you to read faster and more efficiently. Even here, using a pointer will help control the speed at which you read. If you move the pointer faster, your reading will also progress rapidly. On the other hand, if you move the pointer slowly, your ability to read faster would be hampered. So, the pointer can be used as a means to control the speed at which you read.
Reading sans sub-vocalising
It is a common phenomenon that when people learn to read initially, they often speak aloud the words they are reading (vocalisation). As we grow older, vocalisation gradually shifts to sub-vocalisation (mentally hearing the sounds of the words as we read). However, the need to sub-vocalise diminishes over time in many people because it hampers the speed at which one reads; however, there are people who still sub-vocalise as they read. It should be noted that sub-vocalising is not necessarily a bad thing as it helps us gain a better understanding of the written text. However, we do not really need to grasp each word in a sentence in order to better understand the text.
If an individual does manage to read without sub-vocalising, it will help that person increase his or her reading speed; this, in turn, will give the person the ability to read more efficiently by discarding all the excess fluff in a book. Therefore, try and move your fingers faster than the words you read in your head. This practice will enable you to break the pattern of sub-vocalising and, in turn, will help you to read faster.
Most people read something hoping that the information will speak to them eventually. However, what if the material you are reading serves a specific function and requires you to read with intent and purpose? Therefore, it should be noted that speed reading is all about active reading. Instead of waiting for the information to jump out at you, take the initiative to read with better intent, seeking the relevance of the material you are in the process of reading. Before beginning any reading session, prepare your mind to figure out the purpose of reading that particular book. In that way, even if you are not sure about what you will be able to gauge from the material, your mind will be placed to make that discovery.
Active reading also involves taking the time out to try and understand what you are reading. This tactic may not necessarily form a part of the notion of speed reading but it makes for a good reading practice overall. During the reading process, make note or stop to contemplate a sentence or paragraph that may seem to be significant or of interest to you. We would all be enriched if we stopped to truly appreciate what we have actually read as opposed to just reading for the sake of reading.
Learn when to slow down
Sometimes, as readers, we are required to just slow down a bit to truly understand the complex and confusing bits in the written word. As mentioned earlier, speed reading is all about control. Therefore, make it a point to actually master the art of slowing down when necessary to either appreciate something in the material or just to mull over something that may be confusing and requires another read through. This helps you read faster without skipping past the important information as well.
Make the reading matter more interesting
How do you possibly make a book on mathematics interesting to read? Well, if you put in the required effort into reading a book, you will automatically be able to at least appreciate the content in it. For this exercise, attitude matters. Therefore, consider a book on statistics to be an interesting spy novel; once you approach the matter with a positive attitude, you will automatically enjoy it.
These are just a few of the possible tips to improve your reading. Do follow these diligently and you will find that you are able to read much faster and absorb the content better. Most importantly, you will find that reading is, after all, a pleasurable and worthwhile pursuit.
Visual Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirit-fire/