Is Speed Reading Really Possible?
Is Speed Reading Really Possible?
Speed reading — the act of reading extremely quickly in order to cover many sentences and words at once — has become a somewhat controversial topic in recent years.
In the past, there was a time when speed reading was considered a skill for the super intelligent or business savvy. However, lately the skill has been questioned by some as causing reduced comprehension. A slow reading movement has begun. The slow reading proponents encourage deeper thinking and taking as much time as is needed to fully comprehend the written materials. There are also supposed benefits to slow reading such as curbing stress and improving brain neural connections.
So, the question remains, is speed reading really even possible? Here’s a brief look at some studies, myths, objections, and supports of speed reading.
Speed Reading to Stay Tuned
Advocates of speed reading remind us that reading quickly often wards off mind wandering. In fact, it seems that this, and time conservation, are the primary benefits of speed reading.. Some studies have found that reading too slowly causes learners to begin drifting in their thoughts — contemplating lunch plans or relationship issues instead of focusing on the material. Learning to speed read can be a tool to quickly take in material and avoid distraction.
Speed Reading Disadvantages
There have been several studies done about speed reading. Some studies are better than others, using control groups and testing comprehension after reading a text.
In one such study performed by psychologists Marcel Just, Patricia Carpenter, and Michael Masson, the results were quite favorable for speed reading. The study suggests that reading as many as 600-700 words per minute is possible. When tested for comprehension of the materials, these speed readers did well on general questions. However, the positive results break down when the participants were tested for details. It appears that speed reading allows for general comprehension of a subject, but tends to limit specific details. Another study about speed reading apps supports this conclusion.
Slow Reading Methods
I’ve already mentioned some of the benefits of slow reading — greater detail retention, stress reduction, improved brain power, etc. However, what does slow reading really look like?
One study in Science magazine offers some tips for slow reading. The main idea is to read in the style of a first-grade student. In order to achieve this you may need to place yourself in an undistracted environment — a library, reading chair, or study corner helps. Avoid keeping a phone, computer, or other device nearby. Occasionally take written notes regarding any questions or thoughts you have concerning the content. Finally, make time for reading on a daily basis. Think of it as exercise for your mind and give yourself a 30-minute window each day for slow reading.
A Combination Solution
Is there a way to both read quickly and comprehend deeply? Harvard University seems to think so. The institution offers a class on Reading and Study Strategies to teach students how to “read more purposefully and selectively, with greater speed and comprehension.” Sounds like the perfect combination. Judging by the success of most Harvard graduates, this may be a useful tool for those who want the best of both worlds.
Reading for Pleasure or Business
As both a professional writer and avid fiction reader, I have come to enjoy reading for different purposes. Pleasure and business reading each have their place. There are times when I savor a book and deeply devour its contents. However, there are other times when I glance through a journal article quickly in order to glean some knowledge for business or research purposes.
I think both slow and fast reading skills are important, depending on the intended goal.
Are you curious if you are considered a fast or slow reader? Take this reading speed test to find out where you stand. You can take the test a second time using suggested speed reading tips to see if there’s a difference in comprehension. Be sure to head over to my website, www.leifericksonwriting.com to find books to practice your reading style with.