If I knew how to read faster, I could get so much more done every day.
A finger traces the lines across the page as the small child carefully pronounces each word out loud in front of the class. Learning to read has been an exciting adventure, and they are finally mastering it. The teacher comes by and firmly removes the finger from the page, forcing eyes to follow the lines without guidance.
The message sent: this is how grownups read.
But what if using that finger is useful to increase your reading speed? Does it sound far fetched? Humor me for a moment and test it.
Set a timer for one minute and start reading your favorite blog, article, book, or whatever you are working on at the moment. When the timer beeps count the lines you have read, or if you are on a computer, you can copy and paste into a word counter and get even more accurate results.
Now, start it again and read the same text with your finger following the lines like a child. How many lines did you read? My guess is it was a whole lot more than you did without your finger.
Why does it work?
Our eyes track the movement of our finger and increase the speed that they take in the words on the page. If you are reading in your native language, you don’t need much time to process the meaning of the words you see, but your eyes can slow you down.
What else can I do to speed up?
Do you notice yourself moving your mouth when you are reading? You may be subvocalizing the words that you are reading. This is a common thing that we learn as children because we have to learn how to pronounce so many words with strange spellings. But if you continue this habit now, your reading speed is limited by your speaking speed.
Learning to stop subvocalizing is a bit more challenging than using your finger to track your reading. You may need to put something in your mouth like a pen or a straw to stop yourself from forming the words. You can also try humming or counting to keep yourself from forming the words with your lips to break this annoying habit from your youth.
Everyone can benefit from increasing their reading speed. We all spend time reading every day. I probably spend 3 hours a day reading articles and books. If I double my reading speed, I could decrease that time to just 1.5 hours. Or, the more likely outcome is that I will consume twice as many books, articles, stories, and emails in the same amount of time!
Are you looking for something to read?
Practice reading faster by reading more! Check out this super short story, a poem about migraines, or an article about one of the lesser known symptoms of narcolepsy.