I’ve given you a lot of speed reading information in a very short amount of time. Hopefully you’re beginning to realize that speed reading isn’t as mysterious as you previously thought. All it really involves is breaking old habits and learning new techniques. Once successful, you’ll read faster and with better comprehension than you ever have before.
But that’s not all. Speed reading with better comprehension helps you gain more knowledge. And more knowledge gives you an edge over your competition; something that’s crucial to getting ahead and achieving your goals.
Moving on, I want to share with you something that’s not necessarily a habit. But it does slow reading speed so it needs to be addressed before you can increase your reading speed. It’s called fixation and it’s pretty interesting.
Fixation is really nothing more than a fancy word for focus. Trying to focus is something your eyes do continually throughout each day. Most of us take our eyes’ ability to focus for granted, not realizing just how important this ability is to our sense of vision.
Fixation plays a key role in our ability to read, too. If you recall from my talk about subvocalization, it’s the all important first step. First the eyes fixate on or see a word, then the mouth says the word, then the ears hear the word and finally the brain registers the word.
When you read, your eyes don’t only fixate. They’re actually in continual motion, so along with eye fixations are eye jumps. Eye jumps are intermittent rapid eye movements that take place in between every eye fixation. Together eye fixations and eye jumps cause the eye to continually focus and refocus as you read.
In a single line of text twenty words long, your eyes probably fixate and jump about eighteen times per line! That’s because you still read word-for-word and your eyes are in the habit of focusing on a single word at time. Although eye stops and jumps occur so fast you don’t even realize it, the fact that they happen so frequently causes a slowdown in reading speed.
To help you get a clearer picture of what’s happening, imagine a horse pulling a carriage through the streets surrounding Central Park. Those horses wear blinders to keep their eyes focused straight ahead. Without those blinders, the horses would have a bigger vision span. Seeing all the activity going on around them would spook them and endanger tourists. Blinders narrow the horse’s vision and keep horse moving safely, but slowly.
Luckily for us, we’re not horses walking around Central Park. We’re humans looking for a way to improve our reading speed. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by taking off our blinders so we can increase our vision span and focus on more words in a single fixation.
How do we do that?
One way is to start reading chunks of words instead of a single word at a time. Once you learn to how to chunk words together to form thoughts that your brain understands, your reading speed automatically increases – and so does your comprehension. When you read in chunks, your eyes only have to make a few fixations, instead of the eighteen or so that happen when reading one word at a time. Effective word chunking requires learning how to identify the right balance of words so that the chunks make sense to you.