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Category: Speed Reading

Best Speed Reading Strategies – Then vs Now

In the earliest days of speed reading strategies, computers were nowhere near as popular as they are today.  Back then people mainly read printed material like books and magazines and newspapers.  Construction of the Information Superhighway was in its earliest stages.  So when people needed information, they usually headed to the nearest library.

Today the opposite is true – and this has had an impact on how we select ideal speed reading strategies.  Computers are everywhere and nearly everyone uses them.  They’re at the office, they’re at home, they’re at school, they’re in hospitals, they’re out in the field, and they’re even taking center stage at libraries.  Nowadays kids are learning to use computers even as they’re learning to talk.  And seniors, who for so long had tried to resist them, now use computers just as easily and sometimes just as frequently as their teen-aged neighbors.

Right alongside the explosive growth in computer use has been an explosive growth of digital information.  Thanks to the Internet, finding boatloads of information on any topic you can imagine is possible with just a search engine and a few mouse clicks.  In literally a matter of seconds you can find more online content than you could ever find searching through those clunky card catalog files at the library.

But for all the good computers have done in terms of speed, efficiency and convenience they’ve created challenges for speed reading strategies.  The instant availability of so much online information can quickly overwhelm readers and slow their reading progress.

With so much to sift through, it’s easy to become buried under piles of electronic paper.  Plus, long hours spent staring at computer monitors can cause other problems including eye strain and fatigue, which further slow the reading process.

So, what’s a speed reader to do?

The answer is simple: learn to adapt.

Speed reading online doesn’t have to be inefficient or uncomfortable.  Efficiency and comfort can both be enhanced by understanding how computer screens are different from paper and by learning newer techniques designed to facilitate onscreen reading.

Video Version of Post

Improve Your Reading Speed by Trusting Your Brain

To improve your reading speed, you have to start trusting your brain.  I promise that if you start trusting your brain more, you will have an easier time breaking your old reading habits and learning new ones.  It’s about time you start trusting your brain anyway and here’s why.

Without your brain, you could not have come as far in life as you’ve come already.  Every step of the way, your brain has been right alongside you.  Well, it’s actually been up in your head, but when I say it’s beside you, it sounds more like a friend.

Stop and think for a moment of everything your brain has already helped you through – learning to eat and walk, your teen-aged years, your education and your jobs, your relationships, sports, driving; everything that you have ever done in your life, you have done with the help of your brain.

And whether you want to believe it right now or not, your brain is fully capable of understanding all of the information it reads – the first time you read it, even if you don’t read that information word-for-word.

How can I be so certain?

Because of all of the things you already know.  If you know something, doesn’t it mean that your brain knows it, too?  Of course it does.  Everything your brain already knows is called your background knowledge, and you have a lot of it.  Background knowledge is a compilation of every single thing you already know.  And a big part of it includes all of the words currently in your vocabulary and all of your past life experiences.

As you’ll learn later on when we’re developing speed reading skills, your vocabulary, which by now is far more extensive than it was when you first learned to read, is going to help you make split-second predictions about the words and word phrases that you read.  And all of your previous life experiences are going to help you better understand all different types of reading materials you’ll encounter.

All I want you to understand right now is that your background knowledge plays a key role in your ability to increase both your reading speed and your comprehension.  If you’re still unsure about the connection, think about this.

If you do a lot of traveling, you probably have an easier time understanding travel-related reading material, right?  But when you read about a topic you’re not very familiar with, like maybe your homeowner’s insurance policy, wouldn’t you agree reading becomes more difficult, even slower?  Sure you would.

But what you may not realize is that whenever you read unfamiliar material, there is almost always something in your background knowledge that you can draw upon to help you become more familiar with an unfamiliar topic.

For example, if you’ve lived in a home before, you can call upon that experience that’s maintained inside your brain to help you understand all of the different things inside and outside your home that are and are not covered in your insurance policy.

When you learn how to use your brain in this way, you will have learned a very effective way of broadening your knowledge base.

Now let me finish off by pointing out something else I’ve learned from all of the years I’ve taught speed reading:

The people with the most background knowledge are typically the people who have the most success with improving their reading speed.

If you recall, I began this post discussing the importance of knowledge.  Back then I told you that knowledge is power and that knowledge attracts others and helps you reach your goals.

I also said that having knowledge means being able to comprehend what you read, retain it, and recall it when you need it.  I told you then that learning to speed read will help you gain more knowledge because you’ll be able to read more with better comprehension.  And as a result, reading will become more enjoyable.

Now I’m telling you that having more knowledge will facilitate increased reading speed.  So what does all this mean?  It means that the more you read, the more you know, and the more you know, the faster you read.  And the faster you read, the faster you gain more knowledge.  And the more knowledge you gain the more power you have.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here’s one final thought.

Every single day you have an opportunity to broaden your knowledge simply by living and being inquisitive, but mostly by reading.  Whether you read at the library or online, or you pick up a book that’s been sitting on your bookshelf for as long as you remember doesn’t matter.  All you have to do is find something you’re not familiar with, read it, and when you’re finished, you will know more than you did before you started reading.

And that is how you build more knowledge.

By learning how to increase your reading speed and learning to read with better comprehension, you will be able to read more than you ever could before.  As a result, you will also build knowledge faster than you ever could before and faster than people who don’t speed read!

And that’s going to give you the competitive edge you need to succeed in today’s increasingly competitive world.  Now that’s some powerful stuff, isn’t it!

Video Version of Post

Speed Reading Training and your goals

Let me change course right now and remind you of something else you might not have realized: Training to increase your reading speed shouldn’t be your only goal.  During this post, we will also focus on exercises that are designed to help you improve your comprehension.

Think about it, reading and comprehension really go hand-in-hand.  I mean, what sense would it make for you to learn how to read really, really fast, but not be able to understand anything that you just read?

It wouldn’t make any sense at all, would it?  If you were able to increase your reading speed to some crazy number like 1,000 words per minute, but you didn’t comprehend anything you read during the previous minutes, guess what?  You’d have to go back and reread everything you just read!  If you read just as fast the second time and still had no idea what you just read, you’d have to go back again – and again – and possibly again.

If you kept doing that you’d find that your reading speed would probably be as slow as or even slower than it was when you started reading this post!  Your aim here is read faster and with better comprehension.

Although reading and comprehension go hand-in-hand, when you’re first learning to speed read, they won’t always be in synch.  As you begin learning techniques to help you read faster like skipping unimportant words, you will probably find that you comprehend less.  Again, don’t worry.  That happens because you’re used to reading word-for-word.

Once you start skipping words, you’ll be preoccupied with worry wondering whether the words you skip change the meaning of the sentence.  Because you aren’t quite ready to trust your brain, you’ll be tempted to go back to your old habit of rereading, or regressing.  But we can’t let that happen.

Instead, I want you to keep training the way the speed reading activities teach you to read because a big part of learning how to skip words is learning how to improve your concentration.  One of the ways to do that is by learning to stay more focused on what you read.

As you will learn later on, the better your ability to concentrate while you read, the better your ability to comprehend what you read.  But that’s not all.  The more you comprehend what you read, the more information you retain.  And once you retain it, that information will always be there, ready for you to recall it.

I know this seems like a lot to grasp right now, and it is.  Learning to speed read is like learning how to do any new thing.  Before you can acquire new skills, you need to break free of your comfort zone and spend some time feeling uncomfortable.

If you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle without training wheels, you’d have to start by taking the training wheels off your bike, right?  Then you’d have to muster up the courage to straddle the bike and begin pushing the pedals, knowing full well that you’re now on two wheels, not four.

Without those extra two wheels, you’ll no longer have that familiar feeling of comfort.  With only two wheels on your bike there’s now a bigger risk of falling.  A bigger risk of falling also means there’s a bigger risk of getting hurt.  No one wants to fall and get hurt.

But somewhere in your mind you realize that without those two training wheels slowing you down, you’ll be able to ride your bike so much faster.  So now you have to decide.  Do you want to remain in your comfort zone and remain on four wheels?  Or do you want to experience temporary discomfort in order to take a chance on something new?

Deciding to throw caution to the wind, you take off the training wheels and start pedaling.  When you fall, you get up and try again.  If you fall again, you get up and try again.  After a few times of falling and getting back up, you’re going to find that you start feeling more comfortable, even though you might be a bit banged up!

But also something else is happening.  As you start to feel more comfortable, you’ll notice that your confidence is also beginning to increase.  And before you know it, you’re riding like an expert full of confidence on only two wheels.  Riding on two wheels starts feeling so normal and so comfortable that you won’t even remember what it was like to ride on four wheels.

Learning to speed read requires the same kind of approach.  Before you’ll be successful, you’ll have to decide it’s worthwhile to break free of your old comfortable reading habits, the ones that have been part of your life since way back in elementary school.

And that’s a hard decision because really, who wants to do that?  Most of us prefer to operate from within our comfort zone.  That’s why we don’t vary our routine or the way we drive to work or school.  We get up, eat, shower, work, and do whatever else we do pretty much on the same schedule every day, with the exception of the weekends.

Changing old habits is like asking someone to take off the sweat pants they’re accustomed to wearing and change into business attire.  When you’re not used to dressing for business and you first put on slacks, it’s natural to resist and feel uncomfortable at first.  With different pants on, you won’t think you look right, you won’t know the best way to sit or stand to avoid wrinkles, and the material might even feel itchy.

But after a few weeks of wearing different clothes, your body and your mind begin to adjust.  And before you know it, you’ll start enjoying your new look and you’ll start feeling just as comfortable in your new slacks as you used to feel wearing your old baggy sweats!

The habits we’ll work on breaking in our speed reading training are the same ones we talked about previously; habits like subvocalization, which involves saying or hearing in your mind the words you read one-by-one, and regression which happens when you reread material you’ve already read because you don’t trust your brain to get the information right the first time.  We’ll spend some time on fixation as well.

Video Version of Post

Speed Your Read!

A lot of things you do in life have an associated speed.  But you probably don’t think about that speed very much.  A good example is walking.  The pace at which you normally walk has an associated speed.  How you drive, how long it takes to complete your homework or work assignments, and how long it takes to shower can all be associated with various speeds as well.

Something else you probably don’t think about is your ability to modify the speeds at which you perform these and other daily tasks.  You can drive faster and slower as traffic conditions allow.  You can walk faster or slower, depending on where you’re going, how quickly you need to get there, and your energy level.  And you can do your homework faster, especially when there’s something you want to do or someplace you want to go.

Well guess what?

Reading is no different.  If you do any reading at all, whether a lot or a little, it’s safe to say that you read at a certain speed.  Most of the time your reading speed remains consistent.  However when necessary, you can, to a certain extent, adjust your reading speed faster or slower.  Usually it’s slower because you want to make sure you understand what you’re reading.

As I said before, I doubt you give much thought to how fast or slow you’re doing it.  The most you ever think about your reading speed is that it’s slower than you’d like it to be, which explains why you’re here.

Later on, I’ll teach you how to measure your reading speed.  It’s not that hard and it’s something you can do on your own.  It’s mostly a matter of figuring out how many words you can read per minute.

If you’re wondering why all the focus on knowing your reading speed, the answer is simple.  The only way you can gauge your speed reading progress is to start with a point of reference.  It’s just like losing weight.

Before you can determine how much weight you’ve lost, you need to know what your weight was when you started dieting.  By regularly weighing yourself while you diet, you’re able to keep track of whether you’re losing or gaining weight.  If you didn’t have a starting weight to use as a point of reference, you’d never know whether or not you were making any progress.

Well, that same concept applies to measuring your speed reading progress.  If at the beginning of this post your reading speed is clocked at 250 words per minute, and the next time you test your reading speed it’s 345 words per minute, you can easily see that your reading speed has increased by nearly 100 words per minute.  Seeing your progress reflected in actual numbers will make you happy and keep you motivated.

If your reading speed increases even more the next time you test it, say from 345 words per minute to 500 words per minute, you’ll clearly see that you’re continuing to make good progress.

When we first test your reading speed, don’t be surprised or discouraged if your numbers puts you in the category of a slow reader.  That doesn’t matter because the point of determining your current reading speed is not to classify you in any certain way.

In fact, without knowing anything at all about any of you, I’m willing to bet that most of your initial reading scores fall somewhere in the range of a slow reader.  That’s what I find with most of the speed reading students I teach.

If you recall, slow readers are those whose reading speeds are between 150 and 250 words per minute.  Again, if that’s where your initial speed lands, don’t worry.  I won’t call you any names, or laugh at you or anything like that.  And besides, I already know you’re not happy with your reading speed.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be making an effort to improve it.

Instead, I respect your desire to improve your reading speed, and I plan to do my best to help you achieve that goal.

Video Version of Post

How to Read Better and Faster

Now let me switch gears and talk about one last habit that can interfere with your reading speed.  Only this time, it’s a habit you may need to break only occasionally.  The habit I’m talking about is daydreaming.

How many of you daydream?  Or should I say, how many times a day do you daydream?  We all daydream because it’s a lot of fun.  When we daydream, we can be anything we want to be and go anywhere we want to go.

Daydreaming has other benefits, as well.  It can take you away from the day’s problems and help you relax by releasing tension and reducing anxiety.  Some people use daydreaming as a problem-solving tool.  They see the problem in their mind, and use the mind to help envision solutions to the problem.

Daydreaming sometimes helps strengthen relationships, too.  If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you had an entire conversation with your partner or love interest in your mind.  You probably did this to help you “practice” for the real thing.

Daydreaming also helps enhance productivity and it helps people achieve their goals.  Some people call this type of daydreaming visualization, but either way it involves a situation where you see yourself having accomplished some goal, and then figuring out the steps necessary turn that vision into reality.

Without a doubt though, most people daydream because they’re bored.  Unfortunately, many people get bored when they read so they daydream while they read to escape their boredom.  But people daydream while reading for other reasons including being preoccupied, tired, overwhelmed, or uninterested, or because they’re not paying attention.

No matter why people do it, there’s no denying that daydreaming slows reading speed.

Now, whether or not you need to stop daydreaming while reading really depends on why you’re doing it.  Sometimes it’s not a good use of your time, like when you daydream about doing anything but reading.  That’s when you have to break the habit.

However, there are times when daydreaming can actually reinforce your knowledge and comprehension, like when you’re able to relate what you’re reading to a previous memory.  So in those instances, daydreaming while reading is actually a good thing.

The main point I’m trying to convey here is this:  Whenever you catch yourself daydreaming while reading, quickly stop and think why you’re doing it.  You might find that you simply need more rest, or you need to read someplace where you can concentrate more, or you need to read something more interesting.  If so, make the change and then see what happens.

If you find that daydreaming is interfering with your reading progress, you need to stop.  One way to do that is by implementing speed reading strategies, like using your hand or a card to guide you.  That strategy help you focus better, which in turn increases your reading speed and decreases daydreaming!

I gave you a lot of information about reading habits and how they slow your reading speed.  What I haven’t told you though, is how to break free of these bad habits.   I’m going to do that, but not quite yet.

Next up, I’m going to talk about your current reading and comprehension abilities and the role both play in speed reading.  I’ll also talk about some other good stuff, so let’s keep moving!

Video Version of Post

Speed Reading Help (With Fixation)

Now I want to spend some time talking about something readers do called Fixation.

Fixation itself isn’t a habit.  It’s something your eyes do naturally.  But when it’s not done right, fixation causes inefficient reading.  I realize this probably sounds a little confusing right now, so let me start by explaining what fixation is.

You probably already know that before images can register in your mind, your eyes need to stop moving and still themselves.  Well, fixation is basically the eyes’ ability to stop moving so they can focus.   If it wasn’t possible to fixate, everything you looked at would be one big blur.

The size of what you’re looking at doesn’t matter and neither does it matter how close or far off in the distance it is.  When you want to focus, you have to settle your eyes on something and allow them the chance to be still.

And that same principle applies to the words you read.  When you want your eyes to see the words you’re trying to read, your eyes must make frequent stops on the words in each sentence.  Your eyes don’t have to stop very long.  In fact, they don’t and really, they can’t.


Because the process of reading requires that your eyes continually move forward from one sentence to the next, usually moving to the right until reaching the end of the line.  Once there, your eyes swing back to the left where they begin their journey across the next line.  And so on and so on.

Wondering how your eyes can stop while at the same time, still move?

That’s a good question and the reason is because eye fixations don’t operate alone.

Fixations, which are also appropriately called eye stops, occur countless times a day.  And most of the time, you don’t even realize they’re happening.  Working alongside fixations are these other things called eye jumps, which are also known as saccades.  Saccades are the rapid intermittent eye movements that occur as the eyes fixate and then change focus as they jump from one point to another.

When the eyes stop or fixate on a word, the brief pause gives the brain a chance to comprehend the words upon which the eyes are fixated.

Remember I told you that phonetic reading involves sounding out a word, voicing it or hearing in it your mind, and then comprehending it?  Well, now I’m going to tell you that anyone still in the old habit of reading phonetically reads on a word-by-word basis.  If you still read phonetically, which you probably do, your eyes will stop or fixate on nearly every word you read, and then take time to decode each one, before moving on to the next.

Let me give you an example to help make what I’m saying clearer.  If there are 10 words in every line of text you read, and you read word-for-word, it means your eyes fixate about 9 times every time you read one short line of text.  Multiply that by several lines and it doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that’s quite a bit of eye jumping and stopping!

Breaking it down a little differently, most readers fixate about 4 times each second, which means the eyes stop every quarter of a second.  If you’re a typical reader, that means you’re reading only 4 words per second!  I realize 4 words per second sounds impressive, but as you’ll see later on, it’s not.  It’s actually pretty slow and you definitely have a lot of room to improve.

Up until about a century ago, it was commonly believed that everyone read one word at a time.  Until then, fluctuations in reading speed were attributed to how quickly readers comprehended what they read; the more comprehension, the quicker the read.

At the time, this sounded like a good theory.  But like any good theory, it was soon challenged.  Researchers wanted to find out whether something else was happening during reading, so they initiated experiments to find out.  And it’s a good thing they did because those experiments are what led to the detection of eye fixations.

Researchers realized that rather than a steady pace, reading consisted of a series of “fits and starts” or fixations and saccades.   Along with this discovery came the realization that, rather than quicker word identification and comprehension, fewer fixations actually led to faster reading.

Further experiments lead researchers to the other realization that a single fixation point didn’t always consist of a single word.  Their experiments showed that oftentimes, a single fixation point included several words.  They also realized that because we have peripheral vision, many readers could also see some of the words and letters on both sides of a fixation point.  They called this expanded view the “vision span” and determined that it can be either narrow or wide.

Today, anyone who reads word-for-word is considered as having a narrow span and anyone capable of reading more words during a single fixation is considered to have a wide eye span.

The reason I bring up vision span now is because it also has an effect on reading speed.  Fewer eye fixations combined with an increased vision span and multiple-word fixation points all add up to faster reading speeds.

So, if you want to be a faster reader, you’ll have to take off your blinders and expand your vision span.  You’ll also have to break the old habit you learned long ago of fixating on individual words and develop the new habit of including multiple words in a single fixation point.

Later in the post, I’ll teach you specific activities to help expand your vision and develop multiple word fixation points.  But right now, there are other two things I want you to know about fixation.

First, the more familiar you are with the words you’re reading, the fewer fixations you’ll make.  When you read words or a writing style you’re unfamiliar with, your eyes tend to stop more often because your brain hasn’t created the necessary associations.

Think back to any time you tried interpreting a difficult text.  It took you a long time, didn’t it?  Because we don’t talk like that anymore, you didn’t understand the words and the increased fixations slowed your reading.

The point I’m trying to make is that the larger your vocabulary, the more words your brain recognizes right away.  And when you recognize more words right away, you’re able to take in more words with each eye fixation.  So, the more you expand your vocabulary, the more effective you’ll be at speed reading.

My second point has to do with familiarity.  If the topic you’re reading is familiar to you, you naturally have more confidence in what you’re reading.  When you’re more confident, you’re less likely to doubt yourself and regress.  As a result, you can take in more words with each eye fixation.

I realize it’s not possible to be an expert in every field.  But without a doubt, the more you do know, whether from your education or your life experience or otherwise, the faster you’ll read because you’re more familiar with the material.  And when you increase your reading speed you’ll read more, you’ll enjoy reading more, and gain more knowledge as a result!

Video Version of Post

Learn to Read Faster – Stop “Regressing”

The next reading habit I want to talk about breaking, if you’re serious about improving your reading speed, is called Regression.

Regression, re-reading, back-skipping, going back over what you’ve read – they all mean the same thing.  Rather that continuing in a forward motion, regression is the process of going backwards to reread stuff that you’ve already read.

Has this ever happened to you?  I think all of us have experienced regression at least once, but probably a lot more often than that.  Regression is common among readers and it’s a habit that’ll slow your reading speed and have you scratching your head wondering, “What did I just read?”

Next time you have a chance to observe someone reading silently, focus in on their eyes.  As you watch, don’t be surprised if you see the person’s eyes moving along forward at a good clip and then suddenly twitching backwards.  It’s pretty funny to watch, but what it does to your reading speed and comprehension is no laughing matter.

Imagine if that’s the way we walked.  You’d see people out on the sidewalk, taking one forward-moving step after another.  And then suddenly, they take a step backward, maybe even two or three, before returning to their forward motion.  They’d continue walking forward, taking maybe ten or twenty steps, then out of the blue, they’d take two or three steps backward.

If you saw people walking this way, you’d definitely think something was wrong, or that maybe they had too much to drink.  But no matter what you thought, you’d have to agree that anyone walking this way couldn’t be making much progress.

And that’s exactly the same problem that happens when people regress as they read: They don’t make much progress.

Then why do readers do it?

Well, sometimes – but not very often – regression is necessary.  It’s sometimes difficult to avoid regressing when what you’re reading is academic or technical in nature.  Sometimes the author’s way of writing is ineffective in engaging his or her audience; a problem that causes readers to have to reread what they just read in order to figure out the message the author is attempting to convey.

But more often than not, people regress when they read for the simple reason that regression is a habit.  And because it’s a habit, it usually happens without realizing that it’s even happening.  That kind of regression is called unconscious regression and it usually happens because you think your brain didn’t capture the information right the first time.  For whatever reason, you don’t trust your brain, so you go back and double-check your brain’s ability by rereading the material you just read.

Regression happens at a conscious level too.  Sometimes you just know you didn’t understand what you read, or that you missed something really important in what you just read.  This happens a lot when readers get to the bottom of the page.  That’s when they realize that although their eyes were looking at the words on the page, their mind was elsewhere and not fully engaged.

Even though they spent all that time reading, it turns out their minds didn’t understand a thing.  So back they go, in search of the material they missed the first time around.  Sometimes they’ll find it, but not always, so back they go again.

Has that ever happened to you?  What I really should be asking is, how many times has that ever happened to you?

Some estimates put the amount of time people spend re-rereading or back-skipping or whatever you want to call it at 33%.  Yes – THIRTY-THREE percent.  That means that out of every hour, the typical reader spends 20 minutes out of 60 rereading the same material, and sometimes reading it over and over again.  That’s a huge amount of time and I get tired just thinking about it!  It also means that just 40 minutes of every hour is spent going forward.

Regression also causes problems with comprehension.  When you read in a forward direction but then go backwards, you can’t help but lose track of the point the words are trying make.  When a sentence’s flow is disrupted by regressing, it’s nearly impossible to understand the meaning of the sentence.

What else causes regression?

Sometimes regression is caused by subvocalization.  When you subvocalize, your eyes and your mouth don’t always progress at the same speed.  Sometimes your eyes race ahead of your mouth.  So what you have is a situation in which your eyes read one thing while your mouth is busy reading something else.

Needless to say whenever this happens, confusion about what was just read is never far behind.  So you go back and reread, this time trying hard to get your eyes and your mouth to move in sync.

Sometimes people regress because they’re compelled to do it.  In some people the need to reread is no different than to the need to double- and triple-check that they turned off the oven.  In this situation, regression is considered a form of compulsive behavior.  Anyone who refuses to trust his or her own ability to understand what was read will always go back and reread material, sometimes over and over again.  When it’s compulsive, the regression habit is a bit harder to break.

Finally, some readers simply believe that slower reading is better reading.  They have fallen victim to the myth that good comprehension requires slow, purposeful and repetitive reading.  Because it’s what they believe, they refuse to read any differently.  If you belong to the slower is better school of reading, I hope to show you later on that there is a better way, and that better way is by reading faster.

That ends my discussion of regression for now.

Video Version of Post

How to Improve Reading Speed by Eliminating Subvocalization

In the next few posts we will take closer look at each bad reading habit, starting with subvocalization, which is by far the worst of the reading habits.

Do you know what subvocalization means?

Subvocalization sounds a little scary, but it really isn’t.  It’s simply a term that’s used to describe the habit of reading with your larynx.  Your larynx is the structure inside your throat that holds your vocal cords.  When I say you read with your larynx, all it really means is that you “say” the words as you read them.  People who move their lips while they read are doing what’s called “voicing” the words as they read them.

Not every reader says the words they read out loud or moves their lips while they read.  Some are more subtle.  These readers “hear” the words in their heads as they read.  What they hear is more like a whisper that moves along as their eyes continue reading.

The reason people subvocalize can definitely be traced back to the days when they first learned to read.  Chances are, when you were back in grade school or whenever you first learned to read, you were taught to read phonetically.

When you’re taught to read phonetically, you’re first taught the individual sounds associated with each letter of the alphabet.  Then you’re taught the sounds that different combinations of letters make.  Finally you’re taught to string all those sounds together into simple words, and viola, you can read!

If you have young children, you’re probably familiar with phonetics since it’s very popular and still used in schools today.

Not only does learning to read phonetically involve several steps, it also involves several body parts.

Using your eyes, you first need to see a word on a page.  Once you see it, you then have to say the sounds the letters make using your mouth.  Your grade school teacher probably made you say these sounds out loud in front of the class.  For a lot of kids, this was embarrassing, because there was always the risk of making a mistake.  But your teacher made you do this so she could be sure you were making the sounds correctly.  She wasn’t being mean; she was just doing her job.

Anyway, as you grew older and your teacher wasn’t around anymore, you probably started whispering these sounds and words in your mind instead of saying them out loud.  Or you started moving your lips so that anyone around you couldn’t hear you.  Seeing words and saying them was necessary to the brain’s ability to learn the words and develop associations with those words.

Right now maybe you’re wondering how such an effective teaching method could be so bad?

Well, here’s the answer.

Subvocalization worked very well when you were a kid and it still works very well for anyone learning to read for the first time.  Known also as auditory reassurance, the process of saying or hearing the words as you read them is a good way to reassure yourself that you’re saying them correctly.

However, now that you’re all grown up and you have accumulated years and years of reading experience, it’s no longer necessary to voice your words as you read them in order to understand them.  That’s because your brain already knows a lot of the words.  You’re older, you’ve been exposed to a lot more, and you already know what many words mean just by looking at them.

What I’m trying to say is that instead of involving the brain, the eyes, the ears, and the mouth, your eyes and your brain are quite capable of reading and comprehending all by themselves.  They don’t need any extra help from your other body parts.  All your ears and your mouth do now is get in the way.

So why do you still do it?

The reason you still say your words as you read them is because you’re in the habit of doing this.  It’s true.  You think that the only way to really understand what you’re reading is by saying the words too.  But it’s not necessary.  You don’t say “go” every time you come to a green light, do you?  You don’t because you already know that green mean go.  The same is true with a lot of things in your life.  You’ve built associations with words, and don’t need to repeat them word for word in order to understand them.

Like any habit, subvocalization is a hard habit to break.  But it might be easier to break if you realize how much this one single habit slows your reading speed.  That’s what I’m going to tell you next and I guarantee you’ll be shocked.

Are you ready?

When you voice your words as you read them as you do when you subvocalize, it means that you can only read as fast as you can talk out loud.  For most readers, that’s only about 150 words per minute; a reading rate that puts you in the category of a slow reader.  Slow readers are considered “talkers” meaning that they sound words out by moving their lips or they hear internally their own voice as they read word-for-word.

I know some of you out there are thinking, well I’m a fast talker, so that must mean I’m a fast reader.  And to a certain extent, you’re right.  But being a slow reader means you have a reading speed of between 100 and 200 words per minute.  So even if you’re a fast talker, there’s still a pretty good chance you’re considered a slow reader.  Even if you could read a little faster, between 200 and 300 words per minute, you’d still only be considered an average reader.  So there’s definitely room to improve.

Right now though, reading speed isn’t the issue.  The point to be made is that as long as you continue the habit of subvocalization, you will never achieve reading speeds associated with excellent readers which are 700 or more words per minute.

Do you say words in your head as you read them?

If you’re unsure whether you’re guilty of the subvocalization habit, try this.  Next time you read, pay closer attention.  If you notice your lips moving, even just slightly, or you hear yourself saying the words you read to yourself while you read, or you voice your words as you read, you’re guilty.

But that’s not the worst of it.  If you also hear yourself pronouncing every syllable of every word as you read, you are slowing your reading rate even further!  Believe it or not, a lot of readers actually take time to carefully pronounce the words they read rather than just mumbling them to themselves!

Here’s something else that’s going to surprise you.

A slower reading rate isn’t the only problem associated with subvocalization.  When you subvocalize, you’re more likely to get bored.  You might have thought the material you were reading was causing your boredom.  But in fact, what’s boring you could be the sound of your own voice!

When you subvocalize, you’re probably doing so in a monotone, expressionless manner so the sound inside your heads drones on and on and on.  And before you know it, you’re feeling tired, uninterested, and perhaps starting to daydream.

What do you think about that?

Again, don’t worry.  For right now, just be aware what subvocalization is and that it exists.  Later on, I’ll teach you how to break the subvocalization habit

I know I may have presented subvocalization in a less than brilliant light, but there are times when this reading habit comes in handy.

Here are some times when you may want to slow your reading speed and intentionally subvocalize:

  • When reading a really important document like a contract, especially if you don’t have a legal background
  • When reading material that’s very challenging
  • When trying to memorize something or when studying
  • When reading dialogue, plays, or religious texts
  • When you’re in a loud distracting environment and you are having trouble concentrating on what you’re reading.

Okay, that’s enough about subvocalization for now.

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Increasing Reading Speed by Limiting Habits

Habits.  We all have them.  Some habits are good, like getting to work or class on time.  And some are not so good, like procrastination and not wearing a seatbelt.

For the next few minutes, I’m going to talk about reading habits.  When it comes to reading habits, it’s important to understand that they’re neither good nor bad.  They’re not something you should feel ashamed or embarrassed about having, either.  What’s most important is to understand that reading habits exist and that you, along with most readers, probably practice some of the most common ones.

Even though they’re neither good nor bad, reading habits developed long ago can cause you to read more slowly than you could if they weren’t standing in your way.  Old reading habits tend to interfere with your concentration so you waste time re-reading material.  Old reading habits can also cause you to tire more easily and become bored.

If you want to make room for the new techniques I’ll be teaching later on, you will need to break your old reading habits.  But before you can break them, you need to know what they are and how they developed.

Like I already said, most readers developed their current reading habits back when they were very young.  For most of them, that was about the same time they last learned how to read.

Do you remember the last time you learned how to read?  How many of you even think about the last time you learned how to read?  Even though I can’t see you, I’ll bet many of you didn’t raise your hands.  Since most of us take our ability to read for granted, when we first learned, isn’t something we usually think about.  So, was it last week? Was it last month?  No!  It was much longer than that.

Chances are you were taught how to read in the first grade, or maybe the second or third.  But whatever the grade, it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that besides being the first time in your life you learned to read, grade school was probably the only time in your life that you ever learned how to read.

Think about it.  Once you could read those picture-filled children’s books that had about two sentences per page and about three to five words per sentence, that was basically it.  Your teacher was satisfied that you knew how to read.

Reading wasn’t like the other subjects you studied in school.  As you advanced to each higher grade level, you learned more about core subjects like math and history.  But that didn’t really happen with reading.  You learned what you learned during the grade in which you were first taught to read, and since then there probably hasn’t been any more instruction.

So now here you are, fully grown, trying to read really thick college textbooks and business proposals and trade magazines full of technical jargon.  And you’re reading this stuff using the same basic skills you were taught the first time and the only time you learned how to read!  No wonder reading doesn’t excite you!

Being here tells me a lot of things about you.  It tells me that you acknowledge your reading speed isn’t where you’d like it to be.  It tells me that you realize your current reading skills are holding back from the goals you’re trying to achieve.  And it tells me that you’re ready to break old reading habits and replace them with new ones.

In order to do that, you need to know what those reading habits are that prevent you from reading to your full potential.  As I said before, these habits aren’t bad; however they do need to be broken.

Here are the most common habits that interfere with a reader’s ability to read faster and with better comprehension:

  • Subvocalization
  • Regression
  • Fixation


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Speed Reading Skills – Their importance and how knowledge attracts

And here’s another reason why speed reading skills are so important.

When you’re the type of person who can easily gain knowledge, people are naturally more attracted to you.  Not so much in a physical way; but socially.  Think about it.  When you’re out somewhere, do you gravitate towards the person who’s dull and boring and has very little to say?  Or do you settle in beside the person who engages you and others with interesting tid-bits of information?

If you hang out with the people who have little to say, maybe it’s because you have little to say and that’s where you feel most comfortable.  If that’s what you do, don’t worry.  You have what it takes to change that.  You have me, and these speed reading posts, and most important of all, you have a desire to change.

Whenever your desire starts to wane, don’t let it.  You have to stick to your guns. Like it or not, or agree with me or not, if you lack knowledge, people will exclude you.  Sadly, that’s true.  Aside from close friends and family, you might find that most people won’t want to be around you.

And it gets worse than that.  If you’re a slow reader, you may be preventing yourself from attaining a position of power.

I’m going to pause for a moment and let you think about that.

Now think about this.  Reading and learning are skills. They’re not something you either get or you don’t get when you are born.  They’re learned.  And that means absent any physical or mental conditions, you have the same capacity to read and learn as everyone else in the world does.

Did you hear what I just said?  Let me repeat.

I said speed reading and learning are skills.  Therefore, like any skill, whether it’s basketball or figure skating or speaking a foreign language, with a desire, dedication and a lot of practice, it is possible for you to improve your ability to read and learn.

I already know you have the desire to become a better reader because you’re listening to me and getting ready to learn new techniques.  I will help you improve your abilities by teaching you a number of exercises that are designed to help you read faster and comprehend more.

In order to achieve results, you’ll have to dedicate some time acquiring the necessary skills for speed reading.

Practice is the only way you will remember the techniques I’ve taught and it’s the only way you can improve your reading and comprehension abilities.

By taking time to practice, you will become better and faster reader.  And as a result, you will gain more knowledge.

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